By Corinne Murdock
In a response letter issued Tuesday, Brophy College Preparatory (Brophy) Principal Bob Ryan addressed the lengthy critiques of his vaccine mandate issued by hundreds of Brophy parents, alumni, donors, and supporters. That Brophy coalition questioned what they perceived to be fallacies and contradictions posed by the mandate in a letter to Ryan last Friday.
Ryan reiterated multiple times that Brophy was committed to following science, medicine, and data, which he said were “rapidly evolving.” He didn’t engage with some of the questions and requests posed by the Brophy coalition’s letter. Rather, Ryan invited skeptical parents to a vaccine informational webinar on Wednesday featuring pediatric specialist Dr. Jodi Carter, infectious disease specialist Dr. Ana Moran, and epidemiologist Dr. Nick Staab.
In their letter, this Brophy coalition recommended a series of modifications to the mandate, each prefaced with lengthy citations from COVID-19 thought leaders like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). The coalition suggested elimination of asymptomatic testing; testing of vaccinated students if asymptomatic testing remains; allowance for on-campus testing; exemptions included for medical justification, religious objections, natural immunity, and informed refusal; a zero-tolerance policy for any retaliation against families who capitalize on exemptions; no vaccine requirement for overnight activities; and allowance of a negative test in lieu of quarantine for students exposed to COVID-19.
The principal doubled down on the policy that only vaccinated students may embark on overnight trips. He added that vaccinated students would be tested for COVID prior to those trips. Ryan didn’t address parents’ confusion over the logic of allowing testing for vaccinated students and not unvaccinated students, or the logic of barring unvaccinated students from overnight trips with fellow Brophy students but not weekend activities with non-Brophy students.
Ryan also didn’t address the critics’ concerns over the quarantining aspect of the policy. Those critical of the mandate questioned the logic of quarantining unvaccinated students who tested negative for the virus.
Not all concerns were ignored, however. Ryan did concede to offer changes to several aspects of the vaccine mandate policy.
As for natural immunity, Ryan ignored the data provided by the vaccine mandate skeptics. He asserted that Brophy would only look to the CDC for its guidance. Ryan did add that students that tested positive for COVID-19 wouldn’t have to undergo biweekly testing for 90 days, in accordance with current CDC belief that natural immunity lasts 90 days.
Another issue that the Brophy community had with the vaccine mandates concerned the limitation on where unvaccinated students could receive their bi-weekly testing. Originally, Brophy’s vaccine mandate required laboratory or pharmacy tests, and barred on-campus and at-home tests. For that, the Brophy coalition questioned Ryan’s intentions with the mandate. They cited one of his media interviews, in which he insinuated that making the vaccine mandate burdensome was intentional so as to coerce vaccination.
In response, Ryan announced that Brophy will bring on-site vaccinations and testing to campus by September 13. He didn’t address any of the Brophy coalition’s claims about the efficacy of on-campus and at-home tests, or his intentions with the mandate.
Despite the hundreds that made up the Brophy coalition expressing discontent with the vaccine mandate, Ryan characterized the on-campus mood in his letter as “lighthearted” overall.
“Our students are happy to be back in the classroom, to be engaged with their friends and enjoying activities,” wrote Ryan. “It is our goal to keep the enthusiasm high and the daily experience as close to normal as possible, even while we continue to deal with the realities of a pandemic.”