• Thu. Nov 24th, 2022

California Circuit Court of Appeals inserts district’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students – Red Bluff Daily News

ByPatricia S. Stevens

Nov 24, 2022

In a defeat by school districts across California, including many in the Bay Area, that have attempted to impose their own COVID-19 vaccine requirements on students, an appeals court has ruled that only the state can enact such mandates.

California’s Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a judge who ruled in December that the San Diego Unified School District had exceeded its powers when it imposed a requirement that students ages 16 and older be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be able to attend classes and play sports and other activities.

“We reject the district’s main contention that the legislature left the door open for local school districts to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of attending in-person classes,” the court said in a statement from Associate Justice William Dato. Presiding Justice Judith McConnell and Associate Justice Terry B. O’Rourke agreed. “Given the scope of state law, school districts have no remaining discretion in these matters.”

The ruling could also affect some Bay Area school districts that announced immunization requirements last year — although not all mandates had been enforced.

Lee Andelin, lead attorney for Let Them Breathe, a parent group that has campaigned against school-based COVID vaccine and mask mandates and is suing San Diego Unified as Let Them Choose, said in a statement that the ruling was “a huge win for kids.” and the rule “is of law and provides statewide consistency.” He said the released statement applies to all California school districts and “sets an important precedent for protecting access to education.”

Samer Naji, a spokesman for the San Diego school district, said it was “still reviewing yesterday’s verdict and possible next steps.”

In July, a Los Angeles County judge made a similar decision in a lawsuit over the Los Angeles Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccine requirements.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced in October 2021 that California would become the first state to add COVID-19 vaccines to its list of 10 additional required shots to attend California schools, beginning in July 2022. Federal, state, and local health officials agree vaccines are safe and effective.

Oakland, West Contra Costa, Berkeley, Hayward, and Piedmont school districts announced their own COVID vaccine requirements in the fall of 2021 amid waves of infection from the potent Delta variant, which in some cases managed to dodge gunfire.

Some of these district-level requirements were soft mandates, allowing exceptions to personal convictions for those who did not want the recordings. Districts that didn’t allow such exceptions, such as Los Angeles, Oakland and West Contra Costa, postponed their requirements when it became clear last winter that thousands of students, many of whom were poor and disproportionately suffered from learning losses due to pandemic school closures did not get the injections and were excluded from classes.

The latest statistics released by the state suggest that enrollment for large numbers of students could be at risk if California follows its proposed immunization mandate. Only 67% of 12-17 year olds and 38% of 5-11 year olds had the primary two-shot COVID-19 vaccine series. Only 40% of 12-17 year olds and 24% of 5-11 year olds have received a booster shot.

A bill that would have eliminated the personal belief exceptions to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for state students was withdrawn by its author last spring on the grounds that vaccination rates needed to be increased. At the same time, the California Department of Health and Human Services announced it would postpone the statewide mandate until at least July 2023. Oakland, West Contra Costa, Los Angeles and other counties have since said they will be adjusting their state requirements.

The California Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that it “continues to emphasize the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and to provide awareness and support for youth immunization campaigns and school immunization programs.” But regarding the pending statewide mandate, the department said only that “we continue to strongly encourage all eligible Californians, including eligible children, to get vaccinated.”

Kevin Snider, an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute handling a similar case against the West Contra Costa Unified School District, said Wednesday that the appeals ruling “closely follows” the arguments of parents in West Contra Costa and “the impact of The latest verdict is likely to be significant.”

Stella Miranda, whose three grandchildren attend West Contra Costa Unified Schools and who is part of a group of families fighting the district’s vaccination mandate, said Wednesday she was encouraged by the appeals court ruling. She said she opposes compulsory vaccination because the vaccines are relatively new and mostly given under an emergency permit.

“We’re still fighting,” Miranda said. “We will not give up”