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Marine Academy official removed after sending anti-vax email to families

Commandant Larry Kaifesh was “spreading false information about vaccines, which is just contrary to everything Dr. [Allison] Arwady and I have been preaching and speaking about,” CPS CEO Pedro Martinez said Tuesday.

Marine Leadership Academy
Marine Leadership Academy
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

A retired Marine Colonel and former GOP candidate for Congress has been removed from a high-ranking position at Chicago Public Schools’ Marine Leadership Academy, a Logan Square school already immersed in scandal, after he emailed families about the “dangers of vaccinating children,” schools chief Pedro Martinez said Tuesday.

Larry Kaifesh, the commandant at the Logan Square military academy, encouraged parents not to vaccinate their children as he cited a fringe website that he said showed “very concerning” vaccine information that he incorrectly claimed was a government database.

His email, with the subject line “Important Update,” said he had tested positive for COVID-19 and “was surprised with the test results as I have no major symptoms minus some sinus congestion.” He went on to say he chose not to get vaccinated because of the information he read online.

Reached by phone, Kaifesh declined to answer questions, saying, “I can’t really talk. ... I can’t really add anything.”

Larry Kaifesh
Larry Kaifesh
Sun-Times Media

Block Club Chicago first reported the email Tuesday.

Federal, state and local health officials, as well as independent epidemiologists and other medical experts, have found COVID-19 vaccines to be safe and extremely effective against the virus, both in preventing serious illness and death and slowing the spread.

Asked about Kaifesh at a press conference with City Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwardy Tuesday, Martinez said the commandant had been removed from the school. Kaifesh was the top military official at Marine Leadership Academy, earning a $108,212 salary.

“This was mainly, frankly, spreading false information about vaccines, which is just contrary to everything Dr. Arwady and I have been preaching and speaking about,” said Martinez, who along with the commissioner had encouraged more families to get students vaccinated at the press conference.

Kaifesh, a 23-year veteran with combat tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, ran an unsuccessful 2014 campaign for the U.S. House in the northwest suburban 8th Congressional District against then-Rep. Tammy Duckworth. He has not sought elected office since.

Marine Leadership Academy was already dealing with this month’s revelation that almost a dozen staffers were fired for either committing or failing to report sexual misconduct.