By Corinne Murdock
Hundreds of Brophy College Preparatory (Brophy) parents, alumni, and donors urged the private school to overhaul its vaccine mandate in a letter issued Friday. Earlier this month, Brophy imposed a vaccine mandate similar to President Joe Biden’s mandate for federal employees and contractors – if an individual isn’t fully vaccinated, they must adhere to masking restrictions, social distancing measures, and frequent testing, not to mention limits on extracurricular opportunities.
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 letter claimed that the mandate exempting vaccinated students from biweekly testing failed to follow its own rationale of ensuring student safety. It cited a July study from the CDC, which indicated that vaccination doesn’t necessarily reduce viral load or prevent transmission. It also questioned the scientific validity of enforcing quarantines for unvaccinated students, even if they test negative for COVID-19.
Additionally, the letter questioned why biweekly testing was sufficient to rule out COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated students for in-person learning, but not for overnight activities. Brophy currently requires students to be vaccinated for overnight activities and any extracurriculars outside of the Phoenix metropolitan area. It also questioned why the vaccine mandate didn’t address the interactions Brophy students would have with non-Brophy students on the weekends – those that may not be tested regularly or vaccinated – but extended oversight to overnight activities with Brophy students required to be vaccinated or tested.
On the same subject of Brophy’s testing requirements, the letter questioned why at-home and on-campus tests weren’t permissible, but laboratory or pharmacy tests were admissible regardless of their quality. The letter asserted that officials wanted to increase the cost and inconvenience of being unvaccinated. It also noted that no other corporations, schools, or government agencies in the state were subject to such frequent measures of testing, pointing out the WHO’s advice that asymptomatic testing is unnecessary.
The letter accused Brophy Principal Bob Ryan of crafting the vaccine mandate to be so burdensome that students would eventually relent and get vaccinated.
“Principal Ryan admitted to a television reporter, ‘I’ve heard from some of [BCP parents] who’ve said, “You know, this [choice between vaccination and twice-a-week laboratory tests] has kind of been the piece that’s pushed us over the line and so we’re now going to get our kid vaccinated” and we’re hoping for that actually,’” recounted the letter. (original emphasis included)
The letter also questioned why Brophy hadn’t bothered to accommodate for certain students, such as those with pre-existing chronic or genetic conditions, religious objections, natural immunity, and/or those who choose informed refusal.
The 9-page letter had a total of 35 citations, and 11 pages of signatures. A majority of those 11 pages were filled with the names of hundreds of parents, alumni, donors, and community members.
One city councilmember and 27 former and current state legislators also signed onto the letter.
From the Arizona House, State Representatives Brenda Barton (R-Payson), Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City), Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), Judy Burges (R-Prescott), Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), Regina Cobb (R-Kingman), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), Becky Nutt (R-Clifton), Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Kevin Payne (R-Peoria), Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa), Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert), and former State Representative Jill Norgaard (R-Phoenix) all signed onto the letter.
State Senators Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), David Livingston (R-Peoria), J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff), Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), and former State Senators Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) and David Farnsworth (R-Mesa) were named in the letter as well.
Only one from the Phoenix City Council, Councilman Sal DiCiccio, signed onto the letter.