LOWER MANHATTAN, N.Y. (PIX11) — A group of public school parents is taking on the education department. They’re demanding that their children be allowed to participate in sports and extracurriculars, despite being unvaccinated.

Fourteen-year-old Olivia Brown is a new student at Richard R. Green High School for Teaching. Because she is not vaccinated against COVID, the 10th grader is not allowed to participate in any after-school activities. 

“I wanted to go to volleyball tryouts, but I wasn’t even able to try out because you need the vaccine to play,” Brown said.

Olivia and her mother joined close to 50 parents, educators and coaches in a so-called “return to normal rally” protesting a city department of health regulation forbidding unvaccinated students from participating in sports or any after-school activity. However, they can attend regular classes from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

“At 3 p.m., Mayor Adams has determined that they are more likely to spread COVID,” said Susan Korenberg, a rally organizer and Olivia’s mother. “And our children are missing out on sports scholarships and just playing together, which is now needed more than ever since COVID.”

Several speakers referenced an Instagram direct message to them from Brooklyn Nets basketball player Kyrie Irving.

The NBA star famously refused to get the COVID vaccine and was benched until Mayor Adams officially lifted the private sector vaccination mandate for professional athletes and performers in local venues.

“He writes we are all standing together. Liberation and body autonomy should be a birthright,” said Moe Olivier, a parent and former teacher. “I am in LA waiting for the birth of my son. Otherwise, I would be out there with you all.”

A spokesman for the New York City Department of Health said after-school activities have closer contact than classroom activities. And went on to say:

“Vaccination remains the single best protection against severe illness caused by COVID-19. Every action we’ve taken has been directed at preventing any more suffering from this terrible virus. We want to keep our children safe in class, in their school communities, and safe from COVID.”

“All children should be able to play together,” said parent Yiatin Chu. “We shouldn’t be separating children based on vaccination status.”