School Districts Can’t Require COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates: California Supreme Court

School Districts Can’t Require COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates: California Supreme Court
A file photo of San Diego Unified School District in San Diego on Dec. 30, 2021. (Tina Deng/The Epoch Times)
Micaela Ricaforte

The California Supreme Court rejected an appeal Feb. 21 to a prior ruling that said school districts cannot require students to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

In October 2021, Let Them Choose—an initiative of education advocacy group Let Them Breathe—sued the San Diego Unified School District over its proposed COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students over 16.

In November, the state’s Fourth District Court of Appeals ruled in November that school districts had no authority to mandate vaccines.

However, that ruling was appealed shortly after by two charter schools and state Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).

The state Supreme Court affirmed the Fourth District Court of Appeals’ ruling in a 3–0 opinion saying that only the state had the authority to mandate vaccines in schools.

“The legislature has mandated that public health officials—not school authorities—determine the disease[s] for which vaccinations are required,” Justice Richard Dato wrote in the opinion.

The decision means that the precedent is binding for trial courts across the state.

Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, said she was proud their lawsuit protected both the students of San Diego Unified and potentially other California students against what she called an “unlawful” COVID-19 mandate directed by a school district.

“This proves that grassroots parent movements are crucial to student well-being,” McKeeman told The Epoch Times, adding that parents’ focuses are now shifting to “safeguarding their children from harmful laws being proposed during the legislative season.”

San Diego Unified’s argument for its COVID-19 vaccine mandate centered around a state law that allows schools to “administer an immunizing agent to a pupil.”

Judge Dato, however, wrote that law only applies to vaccines already approved by the state.

“In a nutshell,” Dato wrote, “local variations must give way to a uniform state standard.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced plans in 2021 for California to become the first state in the nation to have COVID-19 vaccine requirements for schools, which was to have started in July of 2022, but was postponed a year.

But earlier this month, the California state health department said it will end plans to add the vaccine to the list of approved vaccinations for K–12 students when the state ends its COVID-19 state of emergency on Feb. 28, EdSource reported.

A spokesperson for the state health department was not immediately available for comment.

Currently, California requires schoolchildren to receive 10 vaccinations—including immunizations against measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio, and rubella.

Let Them Breathe also unsuccessfully challenged a June 2020 order by Newsom requiring masks in California schools—though the mask mandate was lifted by the state last month.

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