SAN DIEGO (CNS) – A judge denied a temporary restraining order request Thursday from local parents group Let Them Choose to block the San Diego Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, though another hearing was scheduled for later this month to revisit the issue.
The group is seeking to suspend enforcement of the district’s vaccine policy prior to Dec. 20, when all students over age 16 must receive their second vaccine dose.
Unvaccinated students 16 years or older will be required to take part in remote learning via independent study. By the start of the district’s second semester on Jan. 24, unvaccinated students will not be allowed to continue with in-person instruction unless they have an approved medical exemption.
While the district’s plan allows for medical exemptions to the mandate, it does not permit religious or personal belief exemptions.
In its suit, 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 will harm unvaccinated children, who will be excluded from the classroom.
San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer said that his denial of the request was in large part due to a late flurry of filings from Let Them Choose’s attorneys, which consisted of nearly 500 pages filed shortly before noon Wednesday, which the judge said he had not been able to review.
“I’m not going to have a hearing of this magnitude without looking at what was filed,” said Meyer, who scheduled another hearing for Dec. 20.
Attorney Mark Bresee, who represents the school district in the lawsuit, said in a statement, “This is obviously an important topic to many people, for many reasons. We are pleased that Judge Meyer took action to ensure that the matter is heard and decided soon, but with sufficient opportunity for the District and the Court to thoroughly address the legal claims before making a decision. He made the right decision.”
In a ruling stemming from a separate lawsuit, San Diego Unified’s vaccine mandate was temporarily blocked earlier this week by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
In that case, a 16-year-old Scripps Ranch High School student and her parents sued to block the mandate on religious grounds.
The Ninth Circuit ruled Sunday that an injunction would remain in place until the district removed a vaccine deferral option for pregnant students. Bresee said the district removed the option on Monday.
However, while Bresee said he expected the injunction to be lifted as a result, the Ninth Circuit has not yet issued its full opinion on the matter.
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