Two parents’ groups suing Los Angeles schools over a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students say they will carry on their lawsuit despite a judge’s Dec. 14 denial of their request for a preliminary injunction against the mandate.
The California Chapter of Children’s Health Defense, along with Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids (PERK), filed a petition for the injunction on Oct. 13, arguing that the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education overstepped its authority by requiring a vaccine that isn’t mandated by the state.
In an earlier tentative ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff denied the injunction request, though he took the case under submission after hearing arguments Dec. 8.
The judge said the health and safety of students outweigh the difficulties of remote learning.
“While off-campus learning may not be ideal, it provides an alternative form of education that minimizes the threat of COVID-19 to everyone, including the unvaccinated,” Beckloff wrote.
On Dec. 14, the LAUSD Board voted to delay the vaccine mandate until fall 2022 after reports last week that 34,000 students in the district haven’t received a first dose of the vaccine, meaning they won’t make the Jan. 10 deadline for full vaccination.
Nicole Pearson, attorney for the groups, told The Epoch Times that she thinks the deadline delay is a capitulation to the groups’ lawsuit.
The groups’ petition also said the board “imposed unreasonable fall compliance deadlines” that caused “significant educational disruption.”
PERK President Amy Bohn told The Epoch Times that the lawsuit filed against LAUSD remains in place despite the injunction denial.
“While the deadline extension represents a victory … the lawsuit … against LAUSD will proceed as other aspects of LAUSD’s current policy remain contested,” Bohn said.
The groups argued that only the state health department, and not the school board, has the power to add a new vaccine to the list of 10 required vaccines children in the state must receive to attend schools in person. That added that even if LAUSD had the authority, it failed to follow steps outlined by the California Administrative Procedure Act to add the vaccine to the state’s childhood immunization schedule before issuing the mandate.
Bohn went on to say that the suspension sets a precedent for more than 900 school districts in the state of California.
“Since LAUSD is also the second-largest district in the country, it also sets precedent for the entire country,” she said. “Because of the 34,000 families holding the line, LAUSD could not handle the influx of misplacing that many unvaccinated children and were forced to suspend their deadline.”
Pearson said the outcome of the suit will also set a precedent regarding whether school boards can dictate health policies and conditions for in-person learning.
“Their argument is that they have a broad discretion and permissive authority under the education code to implement programs and activities,” Pearson said. “If and when we get to trial, if the judge agrees with them … that means that school districts who are not medical or scientific experts will be able to dictate what medicines your children must take as a condition to in-person learning in the state of California.”
Eighty-six percent of students over 12 years old have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to an LAUSD statement on Dec. 10.
LAUSD will continue to require weekly COVID-19 tests for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, until February, when only unvaccinated students will be required to undergo weekly testing.
Students 12 and older do not have the option to request vaccine exemption on grounds of personal beliefs under LAUSD’s mandate, though they may receive medical exemptions.
Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Times reported that LAUSD’s online learning program, City of Angels, is struggling with staff shortages, meaning that if those 34,000 unvaccinated students enroll in the remote learning program, it would likely overwhelm the staff.
A spokesperson for LAUSD didn’t respond to a request for comment by press deadline.