A San Diego County judge on Thursday denied a group’s request to immediately halt San Diego Unified’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and instead said it will take up the matter later this month.
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The school district’s vaccination mandate has already been temporarily blocked by some 9th Circuit Court of Appeals judges in a different lawsuit that focuses on religious exemptions. However, district officials say they hope that lockdown will be lifted soon because the district has removed a policy those justices opposed.
Thursday’s decision by Judge John Meyer is the latest development in a lawsuit brought by Let Them Choose, a project of Let Them Breathe, a north county-based state group that has fought against the school’s mask and the COVID-19 vaccine mandates, including the one San Diego Unified adopted in late September for staff and students 16 years of age and older.
Those students and staff are required to receive their second dose of the vaccine by December 20 in order to meet the district’s maximum immunity requirement by January 4. Your due date for receiving your first dose was Monday, November 29.
If students do not meet the mandate, they will not be allowed to participate in face-to-face learning or extracurricular activities. They will be forced to learn from home through independent study beginning Jan. 24, when second semester classes begin, the district has said.
District officials have said that mandatory vaccination will help reduce the spread of COVID in the community and minimize disruptions to learning because fewer students will have to be quarantined or isolated.
Let Them Choose argues in its lawsuit that San Diego Unified itself lacks the authority to order a vaccine and that such mandates violate students’ right to an in-person education. The group also argues that personal belief exemptions should be allowed for any required school vaccinations.
The other lawsuit challenging San Diego Unified’s mandate was filed by a Scripps Ranch High School student who argues that the district is discriminating when offering exceptions to its vaccine mandate for secular reasons, but not religious reasons.
Unlike the Let Them Choose lawsuit, which calls for the entire COVID vaccine mandate for district students to be removed, the Scripps Ranch student lawsuit calls for San Diego Unified to stop granting exemptions to the mandate for secular reasons to unless they also accept religious exemptions for students.
The district said it is offering exemptions to the immunization mandate for students for medical reasons, which is in line with state policies on immunization requirements.
San Diego Unified also offers immunization deferrals for certain students, such as pregnant women, foster or foster students, the homeless, and military families. They don’t have to get the vaccine right away, but they will eventually, the district said.
However, the district is not allowing student exemptions for personal beliefs or religious reasons. It is offering religious exemptions for staff because it is required to do so by federal law, district officials have said.
The state has announced that it will implement a school COVID vaccination mandate, and there are plans to allow personal belief exemptions once that mandate takes effect. It already allows medical exemptions from the current 10 state-mandated school vaccines, such as chickenpox and measles, but does not allow exemptions for personal beliefs.
On Sunday, the 9th circuit judges temporarily they suspended San Diego Unified student immunization mandate as long as the district continues to offer immunization deferrals to pregnant students. The following day, San Diego Unified said it had removed this deferral option for pregnant students and asked the 9th Circuit to lift its lock on the mandate.
The court has not announced whether it will lift its injunction.
According to San Diego Unified officials, the judge in the Let Them Choose case said there is no emergency that requires an immediate lockdown of the district’s mandate.
“This is obviously an important issue for many people, for many reasons,” said Mark Bresee, an attorney representing San Diego Unified, in a statement. “We are pleased that Judge Meyer has taken steps to ensure that the matter is heard and decided soon, but with sufficient opportunity for the district and court to fully address the legal claims before reaching a decision. You have made the right decision ”.
According to Let Them Breathe officials, Meyer denied his request to immediately stop the San Diego Unified mandate because unvaccinated students will not be affected by it until January 24.
“While we recognize a deep sense of urgency on behalf of families who feel coerced by SDUSD to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the Let Them Choose community is pleased that we have placed on record in the SDUSD court today that there are no repercussions for students not vaccinated before January 24, “Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, said in a statement.
Meyer will hold another hearing for the Let Them Choose lawsuit on Monday, December 20 at 9 a.m.