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Wallingford high school teacher placed on leave over COVID-19 vaccination policy

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WALLINGFORD — A Lyman Hall High School physical education teacher was placed on unpaid administrative leave Monday after he refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.

A district-wide mandate went into effect Monday requiring all school staff to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing, following the state requirement for all employees of childcare facilities and pre-K-12 schools.

Kahseim Outlaw, who has been a PE teacher at Lyman Hall for 15 years, made the announcement via Facebook video and an email to staff after he was asked to leave the building due to non-compliance.

Outlaw, 40, said he has received a religious exemption until now, and has not been vaccinated for COVID-19. He feels that weekly testing is an “unnecessary medical procedure.”

“I take my health personally and I feel like I have a responsibility for it,” he said. “This just doesn't align with the way that I manage my health. Having to prove my health to someone is something that just doesn't vibe with me.”

Outlaw grew up in Meriden and now lives in Middletown. He’s a graduate of Central Connecticut State University and has been teaching at Lyman Hall for his entire career, including several years of coaching track and soccer.

He holds a bachelor’s degree in physical education and a master's degree in integrative health. He was last year’s building-level teacher of the year at Lyman Hall.

“I still have to figure out what are the risks and benefits of
termination versus resignation, and all these other kind of fine details,” Outlaw said. “But I love what I do, I always have, that's why I'm doing it. And it's an unfortunate situation that the administration finds itself in, to supposedly let someone go of my tenure, but it's just something that doesn't vibe with me and I’ll have to figure it out.”

Outlaw said he has spoken to Francis Thompson, the school district’s assistant superintendent for personnel, and to his building’s union representative.

School Superintendent Danielle Bellizzi said via email Monday that she couldn’t comment on the specifics of a personnel matter, but that the Wallingford school district was adhering to the guidelines set forth in Gov. Ned Lamont’s Executive Order 13G, issued Sept. 10.

The executive order required all Connecticut state employees and staff at childcare facilities and pre-K-12 schools statewide to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Monday.

Although employees can seek certain exemptions, those who do not get vaccinated — even with an exemption — will be required to test for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

It’s unclear whether staff who choose to remain unvaccinated for COVID-19 and submit to weekly testing would pay for the tests out of their own pocket.

As Lyman Hall dismissed students Monday afternoon, several departing students called out to Outlaw, who was on the sidewalk in front of the school property speaking with the Record-Journal.

On foot and from cars, they all expressed how much Outlaw has meant to them, from “you’re a good teacher” to “you’re the best.”

Outlaw said that while he is still employed, although on leave, he’s thinking about the future — possibly leaving the field of public education as long as the COVID-19 mandates are in place.

“I've kind of mentally prepared myself for this moment,” he said. “I've kind of made this decision a long time ago, and now I'm just being forced to vocalize it.”

LTakores@record-journal.com203-317-2212Twitter: @LCTakores

Kahseim Outlaw posted a video to Facebook explaining his situation.

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