Last week, Laredo’s United Independent School District board of trustees voted to extend the sick leave for staff members who are out due to the Chinese coronavirus—but only if the employees are vaccinated.

The January 13 meeting agenda listed “discussion and possible action regarding a resolution of the board for extension of district-provided emergency paid sick leave for eligible district employees.” 

This left staff members wondering what it meant to be “eligible” and how much additional sick leave the district would be providing with taxpayer money. 

The same day, in an email to staff members that described the district’s response to the latest surge in COVID cases, Superintendent David Gonzalez explained the new sick leave policy: 

The Board took action earlier today to approve the extension of Extended Paid Sick Leave benefit. This benefit will be retroactive from January 1, 2002 and expire on December 31, 2022 for qualifying employees. This benefit allows individuals who tested positive for Covid-19 and are vaccinated to receive up to 20 days of paid sick leave.

This means the district will discriminate against its employees based on their medical choice to not vaccinate. Regardless of employees’ reasons not to get the vaccine, they will now be treated differently and required to return to work after 10 days, compared to the 20 days offered to vaccinated employees.

 “That is horrible,” said Warren Norred, an Arlington attorney who is running for State Senate District 10. “They’ll punish people who won’t take an experimental drug, but no discussion at all for encouraging a healthful lifestyle.” 

“I’m not sure a court would find that kind of discrimination lawful,” he added. 

One United ISD employee said “being discriminated based on my medical choice makes me feel disappointed, harassed, overlooked, abandoned, angry.” Staff members are looking at their legal options.


Tera Collum

Tera Collum has 13 years experience as a government and economics teacher in Texas public schools. She recently was the director of The Travis Institute of Educational Policy and Teachers for Texas.