Today, a judge in Louisiana’s Western District ruled that the federal government cannot mandate Head Start program teachers, staff, and volunteers in twenty-four states to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, nor can it require that adults and students wear masks. This ruling marks the second time the Pelican Institute and Liberty Justice Center clients have stopped the Biden administration’s overreaching COVID-19 mandates.

In November 2021, the Biden administration announced that all Head Start staff, volunteers, and contractors would be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by January 31, 2022. The mandate also required masking for all individuals over the age of two. Our client, Sandy Brick, is a preschool teacher in Kinder, La., who decided she did not want to receive the vaccination. As a result, she faced termination from her job, despite working tirelessly during the pandemic to provide a sense of normalcy for the children she served.

The Pelican Institute and Liberty Justice Center filed this lawsuit on her behalf because the government did not have the authority to issue the Head Start Mandate. Government agencies like the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Head Start only have the powers given to them by Congress. The Court agreed that Congress only granted the agencies authority to make moderate changes to Head Start program performance standards. The statutes the agencies relied upon as their authority to issue the vaccine and mask mandates pertained to financial management standards, the condition and location of facilities, and accessibility to the facilities. The Court agreed these statutes did not allow the Head Start agency to make medical decisions for its staff, volunteers, students, or employees.

Controversial decisions like vaccine or mask mandates are best left to bodies that can be held politically accountable. It’s important to limit government agencies, like Health and Human Services, only to the power Congress grants to them. When an agency exceeds its authority, it’s appropriate for Courts to act. “Courts are protectors of the United States Constitution and its delegated powers. The separation of powers keeps the three branches equal. If one branch attempts to exceed its constitutional powers, it is the Judicial Branch’s duty to stop it,” wrote Judge Terry Doughty. We agree.

The federal government must now decide whether to appeal the Western District ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the same Court that blocked the government’s vaccine mandate for private businesses.

You can read the opinion here.