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Is Decatur Schools' vaccine mandate for staff legally enforceable?

An 11Alive Legal Analyst weighs in.

DECATUR, Ga. — Anyone employed by the City Schools of Decatur must be fully vaccinated or get tested for COVID every single day before they go to work by Oct. 31.

They are believed to be the first district in Georgia to make the move and require vaccinations for all staff. When they school system made the announcement, Governor Brian Kemp responded, "This clearly violates my executive order banning vaccine mandates by public entities."

The executive order has been in place since May 25.

"Any vaccine passport program which for the purposes of this order shall mean any program that would determine the COVID-19 vaccination status of any individual in order to permit or prohibit such individual access to services, property, employment or other rights or privileges based on such status, would restrict individual liberty and force Georgians into disclosing private medical information," the order states.

We asked 11Alive Legal Analyst Page Pate whether that violation would make the vaccine mandate unenforceable. Pate says the fact that the executive order came first does make a difference, but likely not enough to reverse the mandate.

"If we look back to 2020 to what he did with the mask mandate and it's a different subject, but the legal challenge the legal strategy is the same — let's go ahead and file the lawsuit so we can get everybody talking. Maybe we can work out some sort of settlement. Maybe there's another option here. Maybe we can delay the rollout here. Maybe we can give them other options here. Just like in 2020, if he pursued the lawsuit and tried to get a judgement from a court I don't think he'd be successful," Pate said.

11Alive reached out to Governor Kemp's office to see if they had plans to file a lawsuit on this but have not heard back.