Louisiana federal judge blocks COVID vaccine mandate for Head Start staff

By: - September 21, 2022 3:59 pm
A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card

A Department of Health and Human Services employee holds a COVID-19 vaccine record card Nov. 13, 2020, in Washington D.C. (DoD photo by EJ Hersom)

A federal judge in Louisiana has issued a permanent injunction to block the Biden administration’s mandate that all Head Start program workers, volunteers and contractors be vaccinated for COVID-19.

A temporary injunction had been in place since January after Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and his counterparts in 23 states filed against the federal government in December. Judge Terry Doughty, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, issued a permanent order Wednesday on the merits of the case.

Sandy Brick, a Head Start teacher in the southwest Louisiana town off Kinder, joined the suit when she faced termination for refusing to receive a COVID-19 shot. 

“The public has a liberty interest in not being required to take a vaccine or be fired from their jobs,” Doughty’s ruling said. “The public interest must be taken into account before allowing Agency Defendants to mandate vaccines. Although vaccines arguably serve the public interest, the liberty interests of individuals mandated to take the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any interest generated by the mandatory administration of vaccines.”

The ruling also negates a mandate that students 2 and older be required to wear mask inside Head Start facilities and vehicles as well as in crowded outdoor settings.

Doughty also ruled that the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services made a “decision of vast economic and political significance.” The Supreme Court has previously ruled such a “major question” should be left for Congress to answer, he wrote. 

“Congress has not clearly spoken to grant Agency Defendants the authority to impose the Head Start Mandate,” his opinion said. “Therefore, the Head Start Mandate violates the major questions doctrine.”

Other plaintiff states in the case are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

There has been no indication yet on whether the Biden administration intends to appeal Doughty’s ruling.



Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Greg LaRose
Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg's other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.