A local parents group sued the San Diego Unified School District Tuesday to block the district's recently approved COVID-19 vaccine mandate for staff and students over the age of 16.
Let Them Choose — whose stated mission is "to protect families' rights to make personal medical decisions and students' right to an in-person education" — alleges that the district's vaccine mandate plan approved last month will harm unvaccinated children who will be excluded from the classroom.
Employees will be required to have received one Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of Moderna or Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 20, 2021. The mandate would “be a condition of employment and a requirement for contracted services.” 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.
"Keeping healthy children out of the classroom is contrary to California law, is not necessary to reduce cases of COVID-19 in schools, and is not in the best interest of students, parents, or school districts," the complaint states.
Representatives from the school district were not immediately available for comment on the lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court.
The district's board of education unanimously approved the mandate. The school district said in a statement that "strong scientific evidence has shown that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting our communities as we move forward."
"As a district, we are obligated to make our schools as safe as possible for the students we are trusted to care for and educate, as well as for our dedicated educators and staff members," Board President Richard Barrera said. "The science is clear. Vaccines are absolutely essential when it comes to protecting students and staff, and the whole community, against COVID-19."
Let Them Choose argues that the district lacks the authority to implement a vaccine mandate, which the group says is "unnecessary, unlawful, violates students' right to in-person education, and discriminates between persons."
Let Them Choose is an offshoot of anti-mask group Let Them Breathe, which sued the state earlier this year to end mask mandates for K-12 students in California. In that case, a judge denied the group's request last month to block the state from enforcing the mandate.
The district’s suggested phased approach would be as followed:
- Stage 1: Students age 16 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20 to participate in in-person learning and extracurricular activities. Otherwise, they can enroll to learn virtually;
- Stage 2: Students age 12 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated at an undetermined date, depending on the FDA’s full approval;
- Stage 3: Students age 5 and older would be required to be fully vaccinated at an undetermined date, depending on the FDA’s full approval.