Teacher who didn’t get COVID-19 vaccine put on unpaid leave; now he’s suing Westminster Public Schools

Coronavirus

WESTMINSTER, Colo. (KDVR) — Benjamin Helgeson has worked for Westminster Public Schools for 19 years. He’s been placed on unpaid leave for holding religious beliefs that prevent him from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Court documents filed on Tuesday show that Helgeson filed a lawsuit against WPS.

Helgeson was granted a religious belief exemption from getting the vaccine on Sept. 27 by the Westminster School District, according to the lawsuit.

On Oct. 7, the school district met with Helgeson to discuss the religious exemption. Following the meeting, the district sent Helgeson a letter that claimed no religious accommodation could be provided without the district incurring an undue hardship. Because of that, the district placed Helgeson on unpaid leave.

It stated in the letter that Helgeson is not allowed to have any contact with any students or staff, according to the lawsuit.

“During your leave, you are directed not to have contact with any Westminster Public Schools students or staff in person or through electronic communications, or be present on any Westminster Public Schools premises without the permission of the Chief of Staff. Failure to adhere to this directive will lead to disciplinary actions up to an including termination of employment.”

Helgeson’s wife works for the Westminster School District, according to the lawsuit, and he claims the directive by the district is causing distress because he “cannot refrain from contact or communications with his spouse, but risks disciplinary action, up to and including termination, when he does.”

However, the district told FOX31, “Mr. Helgeson was specifically told this did not apply to his wife.”

Helgeson has also been prohibited from speaking with his friends who are district staff members, according to the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Helgeson claims that because the school district is not accommodating his religious beliefs exemption, they are violating his first constitutional rights.

WPS released the following statement:

“WPS is reviewing the lawsuit and denies any wrong doing. All decisions were made to support the health and safety of the WPS community and to ensure the continuation of ‘in person’ learning with as few disruptions as possible.”

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