WRAL Investigates

Mandate teacher vaccines? NC school systems not tracking teacher vaccination rates

How many North Carolina school districts are tracking teacher vaccination rates? WRAL Investigates speaks with school leaders and concerned parents.

Posted Updated

Cullen Browder
, WRAL anchor/reporter

As health experts encourage teachers to get the coronavirus vaccine, many North Carolina parents will be left wondering whether their child's teacher has taken that step to protect the classroom.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said he believes teachers should be required to get the coronavirus vaccine.

Not only is the shot optional for teachers in North Carolina, WRAL Investigates found most school districts aren’t keeping data on teacher vaccination rates at all.

When asked, school leaders in Wake and Cumberland counties and at Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools said they were not collecting information or offering incentives to get vaccinated.

Bob Dyer is a grandparent and the father of a teacher. He "absolutely" thinks schools should be collecting and publicizing data about teacher vaccination rates.

"With Covid being as virulent as it is, it’s important to have all the information you can to know whether your children are going to be safe," Dyer said.

Tamika Walker Kelly is president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which represents thousands of teachers across the state. She supports the idea of improving transparency for parents.

"Having that information could only be helpful to school districts," she said. "It is something parents and community members, along with employees that work in the school districts want to know: Am I going to be safe in here?"

With the Delta variant creating thousands of new cases of COVID-19 in North Carolina every day, parent Sabrina Wong is concerned about sending her child back to school.

"Something so serious, I mean if he gets sick just like any of us and that’s terrifying," Wong said.

However, she's not convinced it's ethical to tell parents whether their child's teacher is vaccinated.

"Your body, your choice, and I feel like it’s not really my business," she said.

Wong doesn't want to pry into someone's personal life, but she does hope educators around her son are taking precautions.

"I trust that people have used their best judgment," she said. "They know they’re going to be with our children, so I trust that they’ve done what they need to do to be with our children."

While some teachers may want to protect their privacy, they shouldn't be surprised if school leaders ask about their vaccination status.

"We know it’s not a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) violation to ask if you are vaccinated, so it is something school systems should look into keeping track of," says NCAE’s Walker Kelly.

Two of the school systems reached by WRAL News were under the wrong impression that they weren’t allowed to ask teachers about vaccines.

Walker Kelly said it should be especially helpful to know about vaccination rates in school systems where masking is optional and where infections are rising.

"It is something school boards have the onus to do," she said.

For now, schools aren’t offering that information. Dyer, the father of a teacher, believes school districts are afraid of political pushback.

"It’s a shame that a public health issue has become more of a political issue," he said.

Wake County did poll teachers back in March and found 75% of teachers were vaccinated or planned to get vaccinated.

However, the school system has not updated that number.