CPS Marine Leadership Academy, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave., in Logan Square on Nov. 19, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

LOGAN SQUARE — A staffer at the embattled Marine Leadership Academy has been removed after encouraging parents not to vaccinate their children.

Col. Lawrence Kaifesh, a high-ranking school official, sent an email to parents and students Monday with the subject, “Important Update,” saying he isn’t at school because he recently tested positive for COVID-19.

“I was surprised with the test results as I have no major symptoms minus some sinus congestion,” Kaifesh wrote.

Kaifesh said he chose not to get vaccinated because of statistics he found on OpenVAERS.com, a so-called “government” website that tracks rare reactions to vaccines through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System. But the website is not a government website as Kaifesh claimed. The government’s VAERS database can be viewed here.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday alongside Dr. Allison Arwady, the commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said Kaifesh has been removed from the school for “spreading false information about vaccines, which is contrary to everything Dr. Arwady and I have been preaching and speaking about.”

Arwady and Martinez were talking about the city’s approach to tracking and minimizing spread of the new Omicron variant discovered in South Africa.

The email comes as the Logan Square school grapples with a wide-ranging sexual abuse scandal that has led to the firing of at least 10 school employees.

An email Marine Leadership Academy official Lawrence Kaifesh sent to parents and students Monday. Credit: Provided
Credit: Provided

Kaifesh used the OpenVAERS site to raise suspicions about the safety of the vaccine, saying it identified “18,853 Vaccine Reported Deaths and 94,537 Vaccine Reported Hospitalizations as of 12 Nov 2021.”

“It should be noted; these numbers are believed to be only 1% of the real numbers,” Kaifesh wrote. “These numbers are very concerning and it would be valuable to review this website and the numbers with your doctor before getting the vaccine or a booster.”

This is misleading, as the CDC has said anyone can report an “adverse event” and it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s connected to getting vaccinated. Also, according to the CDC, “serious side effects that could cause a long-term health problem are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination.”

CPS Marine Leadership Academy, 1920 N. Hamlin Ave., in Logan Square on Nov. 19, 2021. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

In the email, Kaifesh also cited the Unity Project, an anti-vaccination campaign out of California “created and supported by a group of globally esteemed experts in health care and science highlighting the dangers of vaccinating children,” he said.

“These sources are both very credible and important to review especially if thinking about getting the vaccine or booster,” Kaifesh said before signing off with, “Wishing you all the very best and hope to see you all soon!”

The email goes against what the CDC and federal and local public health officials have been saying — that the vaccine is safe and effective for kids 5 and older. Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Martinez and Arwady are urging families to get their children inoculated against COVID-19 and even gave CPS students a day off from school last month to get the shot.

Reached by phone Monday, Kaifesh said he was unavailable to answer questions about the email.

Kaifesh is a retired Marine Corps. colonel who worked as a commandant at Rickover Naval Academy in Portage Park in the 2019-20 school year.

The email raises more questions about the staff at Marine Leadership Academy, which is already under a microscope after a shocking inspector general report recently found that teachers sexually abused and groomed students for inappropriate relationships over the course of several years, and other school employees, including former principal Erin Galfer, failed to report the misconduct. CPS fired at least 10 school employees after the damning report.

Though CPS has said the investigation into Marine Leadership Academy started in 2019, records show CPS leaders and attorneys knew about the sex abuse allegations as early as 2016. CPS also knew about Galfer’s involvement for years, but they kept her on staff and then promoted her to a top position within the district, records show.

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.org Twitter @mina_bloom_