Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Nearly 1,200 students in California threaten to stay home unless additional COVID-19 precautions implemented

Students return to campus at Olive Vista Middle School on the first day back following the winter break amid a dramatic surge in Covid-19 cases across Los Angeles County on January 11, 2022 in Sylmar, California.  FREDERIC J. BROWN/ Getty

Story at a glance

  • About 1,200 students in California signed a petition demanding the Oakland Unified School District establish stricter COVID-19 safety measures.
  • If their demands are not met, students have threatened to strike and not attend in-person school.
  • Students in Chicago and New York City have called for similar action, staging walkouts and demanding more safety measures for themselves and their teachers.

Students in California have threatened to stay home and continue remote learning unless the school district commits to more COVID-19 protocols, joining hundreds of other students making similar demands in cities across the U.S. 

More than 1,200 students in Oakland, Calif., created a petition demanding Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) ensure a safe learning environment through school-provided KN95/N95 masks and weekly PCR testing. If demands are unmet, students have threatened to strike and not attend school in-person.  

So far, the petition has garnered a more than 1,200 signatures from students across OUSD. 

In late December, before OUSD was planning to welcome students back into classrooms following the winter break, it outlined its COVID-19 safety measures. That included upgraded ventilation systems, bi-weekly safety walkthroughs, additional masks and hand sanitizers, 41,000 at-home-tests sent to students and staff before the break and an expanded quarantine testing team. 


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Last week the district announced it had distributed KN95 and N95 masks to school sites so each employee would have at least five, while an additional 50,000 KN95 masks would be sent to all school sites and 200,000 were ordered for students.  

According to local media, students and teachers have planned a sickout in Oakland as a way to protest COVID-19 safety measures in schools, and it’s expected to last through the week.  

OUSD acknowledged the student-led petition, telling local media in part, “we are already meeting, or are in the process of meeting, most of the demands noted in this petition. And we will continue to work towards fulfilling the rest in the coming weeks.” 

Students in Oakland are not alone, as the Chicago Public Schools Radical Youth Alliance also led a walkout last week which turned into a rally that involved at least 500 students outside of the Chicago Public Schools headquarters, according to the Chicago Tribune. 

Chicago students demanded laptops for virtual learning, a seat at the table during discussions over COVID-19 safety measures, more cleaning supplies and better social distancing in schools.  

A similar scene played out in New York City, where hundreds of students participated in a walkout over lack of COVID-19 safety protocols. Students also said access to at-home tests has been limited and they’re concerned that teachers and students are still coming into school while sick. 

The student walkouts come amid severe staffing shortages caused by the current rise in COVID-19 infections across the country. Burbio, a tech company tracking school closures across the U.S., found that more than 6,000 schools were disrupted the week of Jan. 10, all of which were not offering in-person learning.   

The White House is attempting to help schools by providing 10 million tests every month to help them stay open and offering full reimbursement for schools that provide COVID-19 testing to their communities. 


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