A San Diego County judge on Thursday rejected the group’s request to immediately halt the San Diego Unified mandate on COVID-19 vaccination, and instead said it would look into the case later this month.
The school district’s immunization mandate has already been temporarily blocked by some 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges in another trial that focuses on religious layoffs. However, district officials say they expect the blockade to be lifted soon as the district has removed the policy that these judges opposed.
Thursday’s decision by Judge John Meyer is the latest in a lawsuit filed by Let Them Breathe, a North County-based nationwide group that has struggled with school mask mandates and the COVID-19 vaccine, including the one San Diego Unified adopted in late September for staff and students aged 16 and over.
These students and staff must receive a second dose of the vaccine by December 20 to meet the county’s peak immunity requirement by January 4. Their first dose deadline was Monday, November 29.
If students do not comply, they will not be allowed to participate in personal study or extra-curricular activities. The district said they will be forced to study at home through independent study from January 24, when second-semester classes begin.
County officials said introducing the vaccine would help reduce the spread of COVID in the community and minimize disruptions to learning as fewer students will have to quarantine or isolate.
Let Them Breathe argues in its lawsuit that San Diego Unified itself does not have the power to order a vaccine and that such orders violate students’ right to personal education. The group also argues that for any school vaccine required, exceptions to personal belief should be allowed.
A second lawsuit contesting the mandate of San Diego Unified was filed by a high school student from Scripps Ranch, who said the district discriminated against when it offers exceptions to the vaccination mandate on secular but not religious grounds.
Contrary to the Let Them Breathe lawsuit, which calls for the elimination of the entire student district’s COVID immunization mandate, the Scripps Ranches student lawsuit urges San Diego Unified to stop granting layoffs on mandate, unless they also accept religious exemptions for students.
The district said it was offering medical student vaccinations waivers, which is in line with the state’s policy on immunization requirements.
San Diego Unified also offers deferment of immunization for some students, such as pregnant students, foster children, the homeless, and students of military families. They don’t have to get the vaccine right away, but they will eventually have to, the district said.
However, the district does not allow dismissal of students on the basis of personal beliefs or religious reasons. They offer religious exemptions for workers as required by federal law, district officials said.
The state has announced that it will implement school obligations regarding COVID immunization, and there are plans to allow waivers of personal beliefs when this order begins. It already allows medical exemptions from the 10 current state-required school vaccines, such as chickenpox and measles, but does not allow exceptions to personal beliefs.
On Sunday, 9th District judges temporarily suspended the San Diego Unified student immunization mandate as long as the district continues to offer postponement of immunization to pregnant students. The next day, San Diego Unified said it had removed this deferral option for pregnant students and asked the 9th Circuit to remove the mandate lock.
The court has not announced whether it will revoke its order.
According to San Diego Unified officials, the judge in the Let Them Breathe case said there was no emergency that would require an immediate blockade of the ward’s mandate.
“This is obviously an important topic for many people for many reasons,” said Mark Bresee, attorney at San Diego Unified, in a statement. “We are pleased that Judge Meyer has taken action to ensure that the case is dealt with promptly and resolved, but with sufficient capacity for the county and court to carefully consider the legal claims before making a decision. He made the right decision. “
According to Let Them Breathe officials, Meyer denied their request for an immediate suspension of the San Diego Unified mandate as unvaccinated students would not be affected until January 24.
“While we see a deep sense of urgency on behalf of families who feel compelled by the SDUSD to obtain the COVID-19 vaccine, the Let Them Choose community is pleased to have signed the SDUSD in court today, stating that there are no repercussions for the unvaccinated.” students before January 24, “Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, said in a statement.
Meyer will hold another hearing in the Let Them Breathe case on December 20 at 9am.