The Epoch Times | by Matthew Vadum | May 1, 2022
The parents of four San Diego public school students are suing in federal court over the local school district’s requirement that forces students aged 16 and older to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
The board of the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) first imposed the mandate in spite of parental protests in September last year but then delayed it, ordering its implementation in March. No religious objections to the mandate have been allowed, which legal experts say makes the mandate constitutionally suspect.
This is the second lawsuit brought by the plaintiffs. On Feb. 18 of this year, the Supreme Court decided not to intervene in the first lawsuit because the school district delayed enforcement of the policy, The Epoch Times reported. But the high court made its order “without prejudice to applicants seeking a new injunction if circumstances warrant.”
Two years into the pandemic, just about every other school district in the United States “has found a way to protect students from COVID-19 without banishing the handful of students with religious objections,” according to the newly filed complaint.
But not San Diego.
“Ignoring the pleas of thousands of parents, the Board of Education of the San Diego Unified School District voted to make vaccination from COVID-19 a requirement to attend school,” the complaint states.
And the mandate’s rules are discriminatory, the parents claim.
On any given day, the school district exempts 85 percent or more of its students, “for reasons ranging from medical accommodations (because they might have allergic reactions) to administrative convenience (because they had turned 16 a day after the semester started),” the complaint states.
“But SDUSD expressly forbids accommodations for religious believers like the Plaintiffs.”
Students of faith can opt to violate their religious beliefs or get expelled from school, kicked off sports teams, or be isolated from classmates and teachers, according to Paul Jonna, a special counsel for the Thomas More Society Special Counsel, a national public interest law firm that focuses on religious freedom.
“Our clients hold sincere religious beliefs that prevent them from taking any of the currently available COVID-19 vaccinations because they were either made or tested using aborted fetal cells,” Jonna said in a statement.
“However, SDUSD is completely ignoring our clients’ religious protections under the First Amendment by requiring that they comply with the illegal vaccine mandate, while not imposing the mandate on the vast majority of students, and allowing medical exemptions and religious exemptions for staff,” said Jonna, who is also a partner at LiMandri and Jonna LLP.
The school district’s vaccine mandate “was unconstitutional and unjustified from its inception. But the data available now makes it more clear than ever that SDUSD has no basis—in law or science—to refuse to offer religious exemptions,” Jonna said.
The CDC has acknowledged that COVID-19 survivors with natural immunity, such as the plaintiffs, “may have less risk of re-infection than those who acquired immunity through vaccination alone,” the legal complaint states.
“SDUSD’s own behavior, the behavior of other school districts across the country, basic science, and common sense all confirm that the school district has no compelling interest that requires the exclusion of Plaintiffs from school.”
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit temporarily blocked (pdf) the mandate on Nov. 28, 2021, only for the full circuit to later refuse to block the mandate.
Jonna also said that the Supreme Court’s reaction to the emergency relief petition to the original lawsuit in February shows that it’s watching the case and may be open to providing emergency relief in the future.
“We will be seeking injunctive relief at the federal district court promptly, and our legal team is poised and ready to seek appellate relief at the 9th Circuit and U.S. Supreme Court if necessary,” Jonna said.
The Epoch Times reached out to the San Diego Unified School District for comment but didn’t receive a reply by press time.