San Diego Unified School District

Court Temporarily Blocks San Diego Unified's COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

It's unclear yet what legal steps San Diego's school district will take after the Scripps Ranch High student's request was granted

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A federal appellate court on Sunday granted an injunction that temporarily halts the San Diego Unified School District's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students -- just one day before the mandate deadline.

Lawyers for a 16-year-old Scripps Ranch High School student-athlete and her parents asked for the emergency injunction last week while they appeal her religious rights lawsuit.

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said the emergency injunction will be in effect only while the SDUSD's vaccine mandate includes exemptions for pregnant students but will be terminated if that option is removed.

The vaccine mandate for the San Diego Unified School District is on a temporary hold pending an appeal. NBC 7's Rory Devine reports.

Monday evening, an attorney for the school district told NBC 7, "the District has already taken action to remove the option to request a deferral during pregnancy and is in the process of notifying the court. We expect the injunction to be terminated soon."

Unvaccinated students 16 years or older will be required to take part in remote learning via independent study. The district's plan allows for medical exemptions to the mandate, but not religious or personal belief exemptions.

A Scripps Ranch student athlete and her parents are suing the San Diego Unified School District for religious discrimination as a result of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate. NBC 7's Rory Devine has the story.

Appellate court judge Sandra Ikuta agreed with judges Mark Bennett and Marsha Berzon decision but disagreed with halting the injunction after the pregnancy option is eliminated, stating that she "would keep the injunction in effect until the San Diego Unified School District ceases to treat any students (not just pregnant students) seeking relief from the vaccination mandate for secular reasons more favorably than students seeking relief for religious reasons, because any unvaccinated student attending in-person classes poses the same risk to the school district’s interest in ensuring a safe school environment."

Paul Jonna, the family's lawyer and an attorney with the Thomas More Society, praised the court's decision.

"Although the case is still in its early stages, this is a significant victory. SDUSD should promptly revise its policy to include religious exemptions for students. Otherwise, we are confident that we will fully vindicate our clients’ rights either in the Ninth Circuit or in the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary," a statement read.

The family's chief complaint is that COVID-19 vaccines "were all either made or tested using aborted fetal cells," attorney Paul Jonna said in a statement. "Our clients are firmly pro-life and refuse to benefit from vaccines that were made in this way, which they view as immoral - as do many other people of faith.”

The district's mandate, according to Jonna, was built on "obviously unconstitutional framework,” and presents "significant constitutional issues.”

The lawsuit also argues the district has exemptions for others, including foster youth, homeless children, migrant and military families or those in special education.

They also say that by refusing the vaccine, the student will have to stop playing sports and will lose out on potential sports scholarships.

Read the full lawsuit here.

The emergency injunction was granted the day before the student would need to get her first shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated by the district's Dec. 20 deadline, otherwise, she would not be able to participate in in-person instruction beginning in January 2022.

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