Student sues San Diego Unified claiming religious discrimination over COVID vaccine mandate

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RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif. — The family of a Scripps Ranch High School student-athlete is suing the San Diego Unified School District for religious discrimination as a result of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Thomas More Society attorneys filed suit against the school district and its board of education Friday in United States District Court, on behalf of the 16-year-old high school junior and her parents.

“There are other cases that were filed recently challenging the same mandate, but on other legal theories,” attorney Paul Jonna said. “This one focuses on the religious rights of students not to be forced to take a vaccine that violates their sincere religious beliefs.”

Jonna is a partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP, but serving as special counsel for Thomas More Society.

“The San Diego Unified School District vaccine mandate attempts to nullify protections for sincere religious beliefs, while allowing medical exemptions and refusing to enforce the mandate as to certain preferred categories of students,” he said. “Our client’s faith prevents her from taking any of the currently available COVID-19 vaccinations due to their taint with aborted fetal cells. As a result, according to the district’s vaccination mandate, she must either abandon her faith or enroll in independent, online study.”

Jonna added she is a preeminent athlete, looking forward to the winter season because she hopes to draw the attention of college recruiters and potentially earn a sports scholarship.

“However, the San Diego Unified School District’s discriminatory vaccination mandate requires that she either abandon her faith or abandon extracurricular sports at Scripps Ranch High School — dooming any chances at a sports scholarship,” he said.

Charles LiMandri, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel, said the San Diego Unified School District has no right to impose a COVID-19 vaccine mandate without offering students an opportunity to request a religious exemption.

“SDUSD is fully aware that many people have sincere religious objections to vaccines that were tested, developed, or produced with cell lines derived from aborted children,” Limandri said.

The lawsuit details how ignoring the pleas of thousands of parents on Sept. 28, the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District voted unanimously to make vaccination from COVID-19 a requirement to attend school. The board did this at the end of an open meeting that was held online, even though there are currently no limitations on large gatherings and no safety reason to limit them.

“However, this is probably explained best by the fact that approximately 1,651 parents signed up to speak in opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” Jonna observed.

On Sept. 29, the San Diego Unified School District issued a press release, sent a letter to all parents, and updated their online FAQ page to inform the public about its new mandate that all students receive a COVID-19 vaccination in order to attend in-person classes.

The mandate dictates that all students aged 16 and up must be fully vaccinated by Dec. 20. The only vaccine available for minors is a double-dose vaccine, which requires the first dose be taken by Nov. 29. As soon as the FDA approves vaccines for children ages 12 and up, and then children ages 5 and up, the district will inform the parents of students that they must get their children vaccinated to continue attending school.

Jonna is asking a federal judge to make a ruling before November 29th.

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