White House Gives Its Position On Centner Academy's Announcement They Won't Employ Vaccinated People

CBS4's Jim DeFede shares what White House Press Sec. Jen Psaki had to say. He also spoke with State Sen. Jason Pizzo.

Video Transcript

- Thank you, and tonight the White House is responding to the school's controversial stance on vaccines.

- CBS 4's Jim DeFede joins us with what they are saying. Jim?

JIM DEFEDE: Elliott, this story is taking off across the country, as Keith said. Networks are picking it up. It's coming across all over, and this question was asked by CBS reporter Ed O'Keefe in the White House press briefing today. We wanted to know what the White House's position on this was. Let's listen.

- On behalf of our Miami TV stations, you may have seen it report about a private school in Miami, telling its staff and teachers not to get the COVID vaccine. They're threatening to terminate their employment if they do get these teachers are being forced to choose between their job and their health. Obviously, there's not much the White House specifically can do. Does it have any comment on this situation and any idea if there's anything federal authorities can do to help teachers in this case?

JEN PSAKI: That's a good question. In terms of helping the teachers, I'll have to check with the Department of Education. I'd send you to them as well of course. Obviously, our objective is continuing to convey that it's important to abide by public health guidelines, that they're in place for a reason, that they are not done through a political prism. They're done by medical experts, by health experts, intended to keep children safe, keep parents safe, keep teachers safe, keep communities safe. That is why we recommend people abide by them.

JIM DEFEDE: So as you can see, the White House has its view. You know, I know that the question that was going to be asked next was we're also hearing from folks in Tallahassee. So let me just sort of jump in and take that for myself. You know, this is not just reverberated at the White House, but this has also gone into the halls of Tallahassee, where the legislature is dealing with quite a few COVID-related issues this year. And this caught many legislators by surprise.

Now a couple of things that we've learned about Centner Academy. They do take taxpayer dollars. Even though it's a private school, they do accept vouchers from the state. And we do know that at least one student in the school is out there on a voucher and so taxpayer dollars are going there. Now we tried to find out, you know, how much money they've also received through the PPP Program, and it appears that during COVID relief, they asked for and were granted more than $800,000 in loans from the federal government to keep its doors open. So they are receiving federal money.

But to go back again in Tallahassee, what you're seeing there is legislators being very concerned, both on the right and the left. You know, one of the senators that I spoke to today, Senator Jason Pizzo, represents the district where this school is. Let's listen to what he had to say.

JASON PIZZO: It's absolute lunacy, and it goes against everything that's well understood and well accepted in the scientific community. Regardless of what party you are, on some of the fringes on some aspects of things, obviously people have differing opinions, but not when it comes to the efficacy and the sound science and data behind being vaccinated. And to take it a step further to go ahead and to basically threaten faculty and staff members that if they are vaccinated, or to make up some idea that there are some unnamed disease that's transmitted that's affecting people's menstrual cycles and provoking and invoking miscarriages is beyond bizarre.

JIM DEFEDE: Now a couple of points I want to make. In my conversations with Jason Pizzo, he said that he asked the State Department of Education what they could do to take corrective action against the school, and he was surprised to learn-- rather disappointed to learn-- that the State Department of Education plans to take no action because they say they don't have any policies on issues related to vaccines and whether or not you can prevent a teacher from getting them. Now the larger issue may, in fact, be whether or not this violates health standards. Because one of the things we learned is that the school is going to require teachers to release private medical information about whether or not they have been vaccinated. And that could very well violate HIPAA standards as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act. So there's a lot of questions here, and it's not just here in Miami, as I said. It's in Tallahassee. It's in Washington. And I think we're going to see this across the country.

- Jim certainly has a lot of people talking from Miami, Tallahassee, and up to D.C. Thanks so much.