This article originally appeared on CBS Miami’s website. Click on the video player below to see the full report.
Miami — A fifth-grade math and science teacher at the Centner Academy told her students on Wednesday morning that COVID-19 vaccines were dangerous, and warned that if their mothers and fathers have been vaccinated, they should not hug their parents for more than five seconds. A 10-year-old girl immediately emailed her mother from her school laptop.
“Hola Mami,” the child wrote. “[The teacher] is telling us to stay away from you guys and not hug you for more than 5 seconds. She is also saying we should not get the covid vaccine.”
“I don’t have words to describe how my stomach dropped when I saw her email,” the mother told CBS Miami.
Added the girl’s father: “This is an event that probably doesn’t occur if this was a school that wasn’t pushing a particular viewpoint.”
The Centner Academy is a private school run by Leila Centner, who has threatened to fire teachers who get vaccinated. In emails to her staff, as well as videos, she cites wild and debunked conspiracy theories about the vaccine, claiming, for instance that people who are vaccinated are a danger to those around them because they “may be transmitting something from their bodies” that will cause others to menstruate.
According to internal documents, Centner required every teacher and staff member at the school to fill out medical forms last week revealing if they had been vaccinated. In a video she plainly states, “I have to draw a line in the sand today and tell you if you want to get [vaccinated], this is not going to be the right school for you.”
In an email to CBS Miami, Leila Centner confirmed the incident with the fifth-grade class occurred, but argued the teacher violated school policy by discussing the issue with the children.
“Today, one teacher offered specific advice to students regarding the COVID-19 injection,” Centner stated. “We are appalled at this. It was against our policy and the teacher has recognized and acknowledged her mistake. The teacher has retracted her comments and apologized to the class and the parent involved.”
The teacher did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The mother confirmed the teacher called her this afternoon to apologize. A school administrator was also on the call.
“The teacher said it was wrong and it was not the proper forum,” the mother recounted, “and she wouldn’t do it again.”
After the child sent the original email to her mother, her parents immediately went to the school and removed her from class. “This has been a really emotional day,” the girl’s father said. “This was not the school we signed up for.”
Leila and David Centner bought the school — previously known as the Metropolitan International School — in 2019 and immediately named it after themselves.
The parents of the fifth-grade girl had been with the school before Leila Centner took over and said they hoped it would not change. But now, the father said, it clearly is a different place.
The father blamed Leila Centner for today’s problems. He said over the past two weeks, Leila Centner has adopted a more combative style, pushing her own agenda onto the teachers and making it clear that those who don’t agree with her anti-vaccine, anti-mask positions should leave the school.
“She never thought about the impact this was having on the families,” the father said. “She just kept telling the teachers and the staff who had been there for years, ‘Well, if you don’t like my position, this isn’t the place for you.’ Well, where does that leave the parents?”
In an email to parents on Wednesday evening, Leila Centner appeared to accept responsibility for the problems at the school.
“I also wanted to apologize for this difficult situation,” Centner wrote. “I am so sorry. It was never my intention to make anyone uncomfortable or to hurt anyone’s feelings.”
She gave no indication, however, that she would change her anti-vaccine policies.