A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge on Tuesday overturned the COVID-19 vaccination warrant for LA Unified students, ruling that the school district had exceeded its authority and authority to require children to be vaccinated. to go to school belongs to the state.
The decision, however, has no immediate effect within the LA Unified School District, as the district in May postponed its term until at least July 2023 – a decision that aligns with the decision of the state to suspend its own school vaccine requirements until then. LAUSD was the first of the nation’s largest school systems to institute mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations for students, and despite the delay, school board members have been determined to defend it against lawsuits.
In a statement Wednesday morning, the school district did not directly address the dispute, but a spokesperson said students were able to enroll in school and attend in-person classes because LA Unified is state-aligned on the timing of any application of a vaccine. mandate. The district did not say whether it would appeal the decision.
Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff’s decision represented a significant victory for Let Them Breathe, a California-based group that has opposed vaccine and mask mandates.
“Judge Beckloff’s decision confirms that individual school districts do not have the authority to impose local vaccination requirements in excess of state requirements,” said Arie L. Spangler, a member of the legal team who has continued the case. “We are very pleased with the decision, as it ensures that no child will be expelled from class due to their COVID-19 vaccination status.”
The decision — and the litigation — did not address the issue of employee vaccination mandates, and the district’s enforcement of that requirement remains in effect.
Beckloff wrote that he had earlier thought that the school district’s student vaccine resolution did not fit a mandate because it only affected the way of teaching and not the content. Unvaccinated students would have been transferred to online instruction under the policy. But in his ruling, Beckloff said the evidence presented convinced him otherwise.
The judge cited the example of DF, a student who was allegedly forced to switch from a science-based magnetic program to an online degree program.
“So while the resolution is a health and safety measure for the campus community, it also dictates who can enroll in and continue to attend particular schools in the district,” the judge wrote in his nine-page decision.
“If DF remains unvaccinated, he will have to leave his current school with his curriculum and programs to enroll in a new school in the district … where it appears his curriculum is very different from his current school. Thus, the resolution is not simply about how education is delivered or who may be physically present on campus as the court had previously considered. Instead, the resolution dictates which school the student can attend and which program they can continue to attend.
This important choice is something the parents of other children would continue to have, the judge said.
The judge also agreed with the plaintiffs that the state is in charge of vaccination policy and has shown “an intention to fully occupy the field of vaccines required for enrollment and continued school attendance.”
In addition to passing legislation, the state has established a process that allows the California Department of Public Health to add additional vaccines after “considering recommendations from the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee.” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians,” Beckloff wrote.
The court also noted that the state’s administrative process for adding a vaccine is “subject to a personal belief exemption.” The LA Unified mandate for students did not include a personal belief exemption.
California law does not allow personal belief exemptions for 10 student vaccines specifically mandated by the legislature. Only rare medical exemptions are authorized. State law currently does not extend to the COVID-19 vaccine, but that may change in the future.
Using substantially similar reasoning, a San Diego County Superior Court judge in December overturned a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students that had been imposed by the San Diego Unified School District.
These judicial interpretations are at odds with those of Gov. Gavin Newsom and his administration officials, who have argued that LA Unified has the legal authority to impose its own stricter vaccine mandate.
In its counterarguments, LA Unified claimed that if it loses, the decision should apply only to the student in whose name the case was brought.
The judge disagreed, writing, “The court finds no justification for such a limitation given the … lack of authority to pass the resolution.”
Regardless of the litigation, LA Unified Supt. Alberto Carvalho had requested a postponement of the term due to the school system’s current vaccination rate among older students and what he described as low transmission rates in schools. Carvalho said he also consulted with experts who work with the country’s second-largest school system.
By mid-May, about 78% of Los Angeles Unified students ages 12 and older had received two doses of the vaccine. About 84% of students aged 12 and over received at least one dose.
The school system is moving forward with its online academy option for the fall. Enrolling in online academies would potentially include families uncomfortable with term deferral as well as others who continue to worry about the health risks associated with COVID-19.
All employees working on school sites have been fully vaccinated. Some former staff members lost their jobs because they refused to be vaccinated and did not benefit from both an exemption and an alternative assignment.