- A Florida private school named Centner Academy recently sent letters to faculty and parents saying it will no longer allow teachers vaccinated against COVID-19 to be near students.
- The school cited misinformation when explaining the decision by falsely claiming that “tens of thousands of women all over the world” recently reported “adverse reproductive issues” after coming close to vaccinated people.
- Teachers who choose to get vaccinated over the summer will not be allowed to return until clinical trials on the vaccine are completed and will only be rehired if their position remains available.
- Many are concerned that the letter could make parents believe the claims are based on science when they actually have no basis.
School Spreads Misinformation
Many businesses and schools across the country have encouraged their staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19, but a private school in Florida is doing the exact opposite.
That school is called the Centner Academy, which has two campuses in Miami.
“We cannot allow recently vaccinated people to be near our students until more information is known,” the school’s co-founder, Leila Centner, wrote in a letter to facility last week.
As far as why, she allegedly claimed that “reports have surfaced recently of non-vaccinated people being negatively impacted by interacting with people who have been vaccinated.”
“Even among our own population, we have at least three women with menstrual cycles impacted after having spent time with a vaccinated person,” she added.
Those claims, of course, are false. Centner appears to be repeating this completely untrue idea that vaccinated people can somehow pass the vaccine to others and thereby affect their reproductive systems.
In her letter, she gave employees three options:
- They can Inform the school if they have already been vaccinated, so they could be kept physically distanced from students.
- They can let the school know if they get the vaccine before the end of the school year for that same reason.
- Finally, they can wait until the school year is over to get vaccinated.
Teachers who get the vaccine over the summer, however, will not be allowed to return until clinical trials on the vaccine are completed. They’ll also only be brought back “if a position is still available at that time,” which effectively makes their employment contingent on avoiding the vaccine.
The school even required all employees to disclose their vaccination information by completing a confidential form, and it threatened legal action against anyone who is found to have lied on the paperwork.
Parents Learn of New Policy
A notice about this change was also sent to parents Monday, which read in part,“It is our policy, to the extent possible, not to employ anyone who has taken the experimental COVID-19 injection until further information is known.”
The notice even says, “Tens of thousands of women all over the world have recently been reporting adverse reproductive issues from being in close proximity with those who have received any one of the COVID-19 injections.”
But that email cites no scientific evidence for this. It only links to unofficial websites that claim to track deaths related to the vaccine.
Now, many experts have expressed concerns because they believe this letter could make parents think the claims are based on science when they are actually baseless. That could potentially cause a ripple effect if the misinformation spreads elsewhere.
Still, the news might not be surprising coming from a school with founders who have been known to also spread misinformation about mask-wearing and the virus in general.
According to The Miami Herald, a former teacher at Centner Academy said in September that there was very little social distancing and wearing of masks, if any, among staff members while a mandatory mask order was in place in Miami-Dade County. The teacher added that Leila Centner circulated misinformation about coronavirus and masks in group chats among teachers.
The New York Times also noted that Leila and her husband, who she co-founded the school with, have heavily donated to the Republican Party and Trump’s re-election campaign. They’ve even had guest speakers at their school like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — a prominent anti-vaccine figure.
On their school website, they claim to support “medical freedom from mandated vaccines.”
One Centner Academy parent told NBC Miami that if she could pull her child out of the school now she would, but she has already paid $30,000 for tuition.
“They’re very pro ‘my body, my choice,’ and yet, it’s the complete opposite of that is what she’s actually telling these teachers. It’s your body, but it’s her choice.”
As the emails began to make nationwide headlines, the United Teachers of Dade released a statement.
“As shamefully seen by the actions of the illegally run and uncertified Centner Academy, these schools not only teach misinformation and peddle propaganda, they punish teachers who try to protect themselves and their families,” it said. “We are horrified by the unsafe conditions and labor violations that colleagues at schools such as this one have to endure due to lack of union representation and contract rights.”
Some experts have also argued that their policy could face legal challenges.
Still, the school told reporters, “We are not 100 percent sure the Covid injections are safe and there are too many unknown variables for us to feel comfortable at this current time.”
See what others are saying: (The Miami Herald) (The New York Times) (NBC Miami)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (NPR) (The Washington Post)
Paris Hilton Urges Lawmakers To Crack Down on Abusive Teen Treatment Facilities
The heiress alleges that she was a victim of abuse in these types of centers for two years and wants to ensure that no child suffers through the same experience.
Paris Hilton Details Abuse Within “Troubled Teen Industry”
Socialite and entrepreneur Paris Hilton spoke outside of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday to support the Accountability for Congregate Care Act, which is set to be introduced in the near future.
Hilton joined Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to advocate for the legislation, which aims to create a “bill of rights” for children in treatment and behavioral centers.
The heiress has alleged that she spent two of her teenage years in these types of facilities and was subject to rampant abuse. She is far from alone.
During a press conference, Hilton said that one night when she was 16, she woke up to two large men in her bedroom forcing her out of her house. She said she screamed for help because she thought she was being kidnapped, but her parents watched as she was taken away to a “troubled teen” program.
“Like countless other parents of teens, my parents had searched for solutions to my rebellious behavior,” she explained in an op-ed for The Washington Post this week. “Unfortunately, they fell for the misleading marketing of the ‘troubled teen industry’ — therapeutic boarding schools, military-style boot camps, juvenile justice facilities, behavior modification programs and other facilities that generate roughly $50 billion annually in part by pitching ‘tough love’ as the answer to problematic behavior.”
Hilton said she was sent to four different facilities where she was “physically and psychologically abused.”
“I was strangled, slapped across the face, watched in the shower by male staff, called vulgar names, forced to take medication without a diagnosis, not given a proper education, thrown into solitary confinement in a room covered in scratch marks and smeared in blood and so much more,” she explained during the press conference.
“At Provo Canyon School in Utah, I was given clothes with a number on the tag. I was no longer me, I was only number 127,” she continued. “I was forced to stay indoors for 11 months straight, no sunlight, no fresh air. These were considered privileges.”
Goals of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act
Hilton claims that a lack of transparency and accountability has allowed this structure of abuse to thrive for decades. In some cases, she said it has taken children’s lives. Now, she wants Congress and President Joe Biden to act.
“This bill creates an urgently needed bill of rights to ensure that every child placed into congregate care facilities is provided a safe and humane environment,” Hilton said of the Accountability for Congregate Care Act.
“This bill of rights provides protections that I wasn’t afforded, like access to education, to the outdoors, freedom from abusive treatment, and even the basic right to move and speak freely. If I had these rights and could have exercised them, I would have been saved from over 20 years of trauma and severe PTSD.”
Foster children, children being treated for mental disorders, and other children in youth programs would be impacted by the bill.
Hilton was one of several survivors and advocates who fought for the legislation on Wednesday. Rep. Khanna thanked them for using their stories to fight for change.
“No child should be subjected to solitary confinement, forced labor, or any form of institutional abuse,” he wrote. “Thanks to Paris Hilton, my colleagues & the survivors & advocates who joined us today to discuss how we can hold the congregate care industry accountable.”
While only Democratic legislators are currently sponsoring the bill, Hilton called for a bipartisan effort to fight for the rights of children.
“Ensuring that children are safe from institutional abuse isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue,” Hilton said. “It’s a basic human rights issue that requires immediate attention.”