Court rejects San Diego school district’s COVID vaccine mandate


The California 4th District Court of Appeal ruled against the San Diego Unified School District’s COVID-19 student vaccine requirement this week. 

On Tuesday, the appellate court agreed with a lower court’s ruling from last year that the school district does not have the authority to establish its own mandate.

The court rejected the district’s several defenses of its mandate, including that it is in line with the responsibility to keep students safe, that programs can be created to meet “local needs” and that the mandate is not actually a mandate because it allows for students to do at-home independent study should they choose not to comply. 

“We doubt that students and their parents perceive a real choice. For some, independent study would likely be a step backwards,” it wrote. 

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Anti-vaccine demonstrators outside the San Diego Unified School District office protest a forced vaccination mandate for students in San Diego, California, on Sept. 28, 2021.
(Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

San Diego Unified is examining the appeals court ruling and “will consider its next steps,” district spokesperson Mike Murad said in an email to the Los Angeles Times. 

In May, the district decided to stay the mandate — which would have immediately required students ages 16 and up to get the shots in order to attend school in person and participate in extracurricular activities — until at least July 2023. 

San Diego Unified School District signage is seen on a Navistar International Corp. school bus in San Diego, California, on July 9, 2020.

San Diego Unified School District signage is seen on a Navistar International Corp. school bus in San Diego, California, on July 9, 2020.
(Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

There were exemptions allowed for medical reasons, but not based on personal beliefs.

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The mandate faced a legal challenge from the parent group “Let Them Choose,” whiled filed a lawsuit in October 2021. 

Protesters demonstrate outside the San Diego Unified School District office in San Diego, California, on Sept. 28, 2021.

Protesters demonstrate outside the San Diego Unified School District office in San Diego, California, on Sept. 28, 2021.
(Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

The group argued that the decision to mandate vaccines must be made at the state level and also needs to include a “personal belief exemption” — unless the state legislature acted to eliminate the exemption.

The district first adopted its vaccine mandate for students in September 2021.

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It is one of several large school districts in California to announce such a mandate. Those with similar mandates include the Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and West Contra Costa Unified school districts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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