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San Diego Unified unanimously votes to appeal ruling against its COVID-19 vaccine mandate

Posted at 10:04 PM, Dec 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-22 02:11:48-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — The San Diego Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously on Tuesday to appeal a ruling handed down against its COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Under the district's vaccine roadmap, unvaccinated students would take part in remote learning through independent study. By the start of the district's second semester on Jan. 24, unvaccinated students wouldn't be allowed to participate in in-person school.

Monday was the deadline for students to have received their second vaccine dose in order to be considered fully vaccinated and attend in-person instruction by the start of the second semester.

"I'm not surprised. I am disappointed,” Sharon McKeeman, the founder of Let Them Choose, said to ABC 10News in an interview Tuesday night.  

"San Diego Unified has seemed very set on going forward with this mandate even when it violates students' rights and state law."

Following the board's unanimous vote to appeal the ruling, the district sent a message to families and staff.

It reads, “Dear San Diego Unified Family,

As our country and our community enters a new and dangerous stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Board of Education met this afternoon and agreed to file an appeal in order to keep our vaccine mandate for students ages 16 and up in place. Vaccines remain the best way to protect the health and safety of our students, and we are 100-percent determined to maintain the vaccination mandate. The vote today by the Board was unanimous.

Additionally, the vaccine mandate for all school staff remains in place and has not been challenged in court, so all employees are reminded to get vaccinated and boosted if they are eligible.

The Board of Education and Interim Superintendent Dr. Lamont Jackson also urged all eligible parents and students to take advantage of the fact that safe and effective vaccines are now available for everyone above the age of 5. Please visit our COVID-19 Vaccine website for more information.”

McKeeman, also issued a statement on the district's vote to appeal, saying:

“Let Them Choose is confident that we will prevail in an appellate court and we look forward to setting binding statewide precedent that protects students’ rights to in-person education. Judge Meyers ruled in our favor on the clear legal issues that school districts do not have authority to mandate a patchwork of vaccines or contradict state law by rejecting personal belief exemptions and we do not expect the appellate court to come to a different conclusion. In the meantime there is a ruling in place against the SDUSD vaccine mandate and they cannot enforce it.”

Those fighting against the mandate are confident as both sides prepare for yet another 12 rounds of legal battle.

"And I look forward to setting binding precedent statewide. If we prevail in a appellate court that would be even more binding,” McKeeman said in the interview.

Monday, a judge ruled in favor of a lawsuit against the district for its vaccine mandate, which doesn't permit religious or personal belief exemptions. San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer said the district's mandate contradicts state law because implementing such mandates without exemptions can only be imposed by the state legislature.

Meyer added that while students are required to get some vaccinations in order to attend in-person school, adding COVID-19 to that list without allowing personal belief exemptions lies only with the state.

In response to the judge's ruling, the district's attorney, Mark R. Bresee, issued a statement on Monday reading:

"The San Diego Unified School District is disappointed that Superior Court Judge John S. Meyer concluded only the state can act regarding vaccinations, even though the law specifically allows and encourages local vaccination programs. Even Judge Meyer acknowledged in his ruling that the vaccine mandate 'appears to be necessary and rational, and the district's desire to protect its students from COVID-19 is commendable.' The district is considering its options in response to this ruling."