Utah AG joins lawsuit challenging Biden’s Head Start vaccine mandate for early education staff

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes said the Biden administration’s mandate for Head Start programs would cost jobs and impede the development of young children.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes speaks with delegates attending the Utah Republican Party’s 2021 Organizing Convention at the Maverik Center in West Valley City on Saturday, May 1, 2021, as they return to an in-person format after the pandemic forced the nominating convention to go online last year.

Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes joined a multistate lawsuit on Tuesday targeted at stopping the Biden administration from requiring young children enrolled in a Head Start program to wear masks and that the program’s employees be vaccinated by next year.

The preliminary injunction, signed by Reyes and 23 other states, was filed the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana and alleges that the Biden administration “acted without statutory authority and contrary to law.”

“Forcing masks on 2-year-olds and vaccines on Head Start teachers will cost jobs and impede child development,” said Reyes wrote in a statement. “Not only is the Head Start mandate unlawful, but it will deprive low-income families and rural communities in Utah of these vital services.”

Managed under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Head Start program provides early childhood education to low-income families with preschool-aged children. Publics schools that provide preschool education often receive federal funding from Head Start grants.

The vaccine mandate for Head Start teachers and staff, ordered by President Joe Biden in September, seeks to stymie the spread of COVID-19 in early education programs.

“Health and safety have always been core components of the Head Start program. Taking this step of getting vaccinated by January 2022 is another way to make sure our children, families, and colleagues remain safe,” wrote Head Start Director Bernadine Futrell in a September letter sent to staff. “Our Head Start children are not yet eligible for the vaccine. This means it’s even more important that adults who partner with families are fully vaccinated and the environments where children learn are safe and healthy.”

The lawsuit comes after Utah joined other Republican states to stop several of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates targeted towards federal contractors and businesses with 100 or more employees.

“The Biden Administration has quadrupled down on its lawless mandates,” the lawsuit alleges. “(The Head Start Mandate) is projected to lead to tens of thousands of Head Start agency staff losing their jobs, and will cause programs to close or reduce capacity — achieving the very opposite result of its purported goal.”

The Food and Drug Administration has not yet authorized children under five years old to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Children ages 2 and older are required to wear a mask when flying, according to a Transportation Security Administration mandate.