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AISD Giving Special Privileges To Vaccinated

By Brad Swail

The following email from AISD was sent to me by a listener:

Austin ISD has added a question to our screener asking about vaccine status. All Austin ISD families and staff complete this screener on the AISD mobile app before entering the building and have done so since the beginning of the school year.

This new question about vaccine status makes our screener more accurate. It also allows staff or families who are fully vaccinated (two weeks after their final vaccine dose) to come onto campus even if they have had contact with a COVID-positive individual as is consistent with the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some families have asked whether the question about vaccine status violates medical privacy laws such as FERPA, HIPPA and ADA. It does not. Asking for vaccine status information isn’t a violation. Also, because the state prevents school districts from doing so, we do not require you to be vaccinated for COVID-19 to come to our schools.

We hope this clarifies why Austin ISD is asking this question. If you have more questions or concerns, we’ve compiled a detailed FAQ below.

COVID-19 Screener FAQ

Why was question number 6 regarding Covid-19 vaccine status added to the screener?

Answer: To make our screener most accurate, we added question 6 that has technology logic built-in. Per CDC guidelines, If an individual has been fully vaccinated for 14 days, they do not have to quarantine after a close contact with a positive case of COVID-19. This new question about vaccine status is meant to troubleshoot the issue of fully vaccinated individuals receiving a ‘red screen’ that is activated by answers to questions 3-5 regarding close contact or exposure. Answering ‘yes’ to close contact and ‘yes’ to being vaccinated would initiate a green screen, while answering ‘no’ to being vaccinated would initiate a red screen. This vaccine status information is only being used to enhance the accuracy of the screener.

Is asking a person their vaccine status a HIPPA and/or FERPA violation?

Answer: HIPAA and FERPA relates to what can be shared by institutions to whom and not what can be asked. Per the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asking an employee for vaccine status or proof of vaccine is not a violation of HIPAA or ADA. The only time HIPAA can be invoked is if the employer is asking for the information from a healthcare provider or distributing the information in an insecure manner. The district is not sharing any of the information collected with external stakeholders. The information collected in the screener is used solely to determine whether someone receives a green check or red “x” to access AISD grounds.

Which campus administrators have access to the information on the COVID screening app?

Answer: The only information that is shared is if an individual receives a red “x”, it will go to the designated campus/department COVID-19 designee for contact tracing or return to campus guidance follow-up if needed.

Is my Covid-19 vaccine status data being shared with other entities?

Answer: There are no external agencies who have access to any information from the COVID-19 screener, as our screener is housed internally and not shared with any external entities.

Can we opt out of answering question number 6 regarding vaccine status?

Answer: We are working to add a “prefer not to say” option for question 6.

If we do not consent to answering the questions on the COVID-19 Screen and Go, will our child be allowed to go to in-person school?

Answer: At this time, AISD requires all individuals to screen before accessing AISD grounds.

Is the district going to require that everyone be vaccinated for next school year?

Answer: The district is following the vaccine requirements outlined by the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. At this time, the state is not requiring that any individuals be vaccinated for COVID-19. The district is following state guidelines and is not requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for any student or employee.

Will employees be allowed to continue working and students be allowed to continue in-person learning if not vaccinated?

Answer: Yes. The district does not require any individual to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If an employee or student answers ‘no’ to question 6 regarding vaccine status, and has not had close contact or been exposed to a confirmed positive person, they can continue to report to work or school if not vaccinated.

If my child is not vaccinated, will they be separated from other children and/or put into separate areas?

Answer: No. The sole purpose for the question being added on the screener was to determine whether a person receives a green check or red “x”.

Why can I not view the new question regarding vaccine status, but others can?

Answer: When changes are made to the screener, you will have to update the AISD mobile app. Please go to your Android or Apple store to reinstall or update your ‘AISD App’ for question number 6 within the COVID-19 Screen & Go tab should now appear.

Will there be some type of shortcut provided so that we no longer have to answer all six questions before entering a district facility?

Answer: The district is currently discussing how our screening process will look next school year. Families and staff will still be encouraged to screen for symptoms prior to arriving to campus, and students and staff that are showing COVID-19 symptoms should stay home and contact their primary care provider.

The email also included a Spanish translation, which I did not include here. But as you can see above, AISD has created a system where, if answered truthfully, unvaccinated persons may be excluded from AISD events or property.

A simple scenario: a vaccinated and an unvaccinated person walk to up to a graduation. Both pull out their app, and answer that they have been within close contact with someone that has tested positive for Covid-19. The vaccinated person is allowed in, while the unvaccinated is denied.

Never mind that the vaccinated are, supposedly, protected from the virus that the unvaccinated may or may not be carrying, that the average age of these events is likely in a low risk age bracket, that we are all paying taxes for these events which should guarantee our entrance, especially if we are student or parent.

More on this as it develops.

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