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A student holds up a vaccination card as students prepare to return to school under a vaccine mandate.
Under the district's roadmap, unvaccinated students must take part in remote learning via independent study. Courtesy photo
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Judge tentatively rules against San Diego Unified in vaccine mandate case

SAN DIEGO — A judge indicated today that he will rule against the San Diego Unified School District in a lawsuit challenging its vaccine mandate for students.

In a tentative ruling issued Monday morning, San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer said the district’s mandate, which does not permit religious or personal belief exemptions, contradicts state law because implementing such mandates without exemptions can be imposed only by the legislature.

Meyer also said that while students are required to receive some vaccinations in order to attend in-person school, adding COVID-19 to the list of required vaccinations without allowing personal belief exemptions is another area that lies only with the state.

Under the district’s roadmap, unvaccinated students must take part in remote learning via independent study. By the start of the district’s second semester on Jan. 24, unvaccinated students will not be allowed to continue with in-person instruction unless they have an approved medical exemption.

Tenative LTC Writ of Mandate - Dec 20 2021 - 9-23 AM

With a final ruling expected later, further arguments will be made Monday by attorneys for the school district and the plaintiffs, local parents group Let Them Breathe.

The tentative ruling comes on the day district students must receive their second vaccine dose in order to be considered fully vaccinated and able to attend in-person instruction by the start of the second semester.

Meyer said that attendance in an independent study program must be voluntary, though such a program would be mandatory under the district’s roadmap.

The district’s mandate, which its board approved in September, was also challenged in a separate federal lawsuit filed by a Scripps Ranch High School student and her parents, who sought to block the mandate on religious grounds.

The request was denied by a San Diego federal judge, and the decision was upheld by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The student’s attorneys have since asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the case.