Head Start Grantees and Contractors Sue Over Vaccination Mandate

A set of plaintiffs filed suit in the Eastern District of Michigan on Thursday against defendants Xavier Becerra, the Department of Health and Human Services, and other officials. The plaintiffs, who comprise Head Start grantees and contractors, are Livingston Education Service Agency, Saginaw Intermediate School District, Walled Lake Consolidated School District, and Wayne Westland Community Schools.

Head Start is defined in the complaint as a federal program designed to “promote the school readiness of low-income children by enhancing their cognitive, social, and emotional development.”

The action was brought to the defendants after the Biden Administration imposed a vaccination requirement on certain federally funded programs, including Head Start. The plaintiffs argue that this new mandate constitutes an unlawful vaccination requirement and that if enforced, the requirement will “cause irreparable harm to Plaintiffs and the children and families whom Head Start was created to serve.”

Many families rely on the program to provide educational, nutritional, social, health, and other services. The plaintiffs believe that the new requirement will force the plaintiffs to close certain classrooms and programs as a result of lost staff. Consequently, Head Start families, many of whom live below the poverty line, will then lose critical access to Head Start services, the complaint says.

The plaintiffs assert that the aforementioned potential closures would have significant impacts on the children enrolled in the Head Start. Specifically, they outline that the “closure of a single classroom also deprives the families of enrolled children from Head Start’s services and makes it difficult for the parents of enrolled children to maintain employment.” If Head Start does not comply with the vaccination mandate imposed by the Biden Administration, the plaintiffs explain that steps will be taken to terminate the program’s funding.

While the defendants argue that they can legally require vaccination since it is a “modification of a program performance standard,” the plaintiffs counter that since there has never been a mandated vaccine before for the Head Start staff, the new mandate it is not within the Secretary’s delegated authority. Further, they believe that the mandate is “otherwise invalid under federal statutory and constitutional law.”

The complaint cites three counts of the mandate exceeding statutory authority and being contrary to law, the mandate violating the Administrative Procedures Act’s notice-and comment requirement, the mandate being both arbitrary and capricious, and lastly the mandate’s violation of the congressional review act, the tenth amendment, the spending clause, and the separation of powers specification of the constitution. The plaintiffs seek declaratory judgement, injunctive relief, and “other relief to vindicate their rights and to preserve their ability to provide necessary services to children and families who participate in Head Start programs.”

The plaintiffs are represented by Miller Johnson.