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Parents react to court's decision to lift block on San Diego Unified's vaccine mandate

San Diego Unified School District
Posted at 9:58 PM, Dec 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-06 01:04:15-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — According to the San Diego Unified School District, at least 72% of students 16 or older have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Nov. 8.

Despite that, there are still a lot of mixed emotions surrounding the school district's vaccine mandate.

On Saturday night, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed the San Diego Unified School District by lifting a temporary block on the district's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.

“The Court majority correctly recognized that the district’s legitimate interests include protecting the health and safety of students whose health would be placed at risk by being vaccinated, by providing a narrow medical exemption,” San Diego Unified's Counsel Mark Bresee said in a released statement Sunday.

The policy requires all students over the age of 16 to get their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Nov. 29 and get their second dose no later than Dec. 20.

Anyone that does not meet those requirements would have to enroll in independent study programs.

"I do believe in the vaccine, but I also believe parents have a right to choose what they put in their children's bodies," said Mark Powell.

Powell's 16-year-old daughter attends a high school in the district and is vaccinated. However, Powell said he is not fully sold on if children need the shot.

"After all, this virus has not proven to be that dangerous to children; however, it does affect children."

The mandate only allows medical exemptions, not religious beliefs.

The injunction stemmed from a lawsuit filed against the school district by the family of a 16-year-old Scripps Ranch High School student, claiming her religious beliefs prohibit her from getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

Paul Jonna, the family's attorney, responded to the decision in a statement to 10News.

"The Ninth Circuit's decision refusing to block SDUSD's unconstitutional vaccine mandate ignores binding precedent from the U.S. Supreme Court," said Jonna.

He went on to say the mandate violates the First Amendment. The decision comes days after the San Diego Superior Court denied another attempt to suspend the mandate by the organization "Let Them Choose."

"It was disappointing, but I wasn’t surprised," said Founder Sharon McKeeman.

The organization filed a separate lawsuit against the school district because it excludes students with personal beliefs exemptions.

"We feel that regardless of a student's religious or lack of religious beliefs, they are entitled to choose when it comes to this very new vaccine."

While the injunction was denied, McKeeman says not all hope is lost. A full hearing on the organization's lawsuit is set for Dec. 20 in Superior Court.

Meanwhile, Jonna plans to seek emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court as soon as possible.