Anti-mask group sues San Diego Unified over vaccination mandate in schools

Sharon McKeeman, founder of Let Them Breathe, holds a sign protesting the state's school mask mandate in July.
(Kristian Carreon)

Let Them Choose, part of the Let Them Breathe group, argues that the district lacks the legal authority to require vaccinations.


A San Diego County-based group that has been fighting California’s school mask mandate sued the San Diego Unified School District this week over the district’s new COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

Let Them Choose, a project of the anti-mask group Let Them Breathe, filed its lawsuit against San Diego Unified on Oct. 11 in San Diego County Superior Court.

The lawsuit contends the district’s vaccination mandate hurts students because it forces them to learn from home in independent study if they don’t get vaccinated.

“Keeping healthy children out of the classroom is contrary to California law, is not necessary to reduce cases of COVID-19 in schools and is not in the best interest of students, parents or school districts,” the lawsuit states.

On Sept. 28, the San Diego Unified board unanimously approved a requirement that all students 16 and older, as well as staff, be fully vaccinated against COVID by Dec. 20.

Younger students will be required to get vaccinated after a vaccine is fully approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for their age groups, according to the mandate.

Earlier this month, the state also mandated that students receive COVID vaccines once they’re fully approved, but with a longer timeline. Students 12 and older will have to get vaccinated starting with the semester that begins after a vaccine is fully approved by the FDA for youths ages 12-15. The earliest that requirement could kick in is Jan. 1.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine currently is fully approved for people 16 and older. It has emergency authorization from the FDA for ages 12-15.

San Diego Unified’s mandate has drawn support from several medical and other scientific professionals. The district has said its vaccine mandate will help reduce the spread of COVID among students, their families and school staff. It also will reduce disruptions to student learning, district officials said.

State guidance has said unvaccinated students should be sent home to quarantine for up to 10 days if they come in contact with someone who has COVID. Vaccinated students don’t have to quarantine.

California’s rules allow exemptions for students’ personal beliefs. However, San Diego Unified is not allowing personal-belief exemptions for students.

SDUSD board President Richard Barrera has said the district is not offering personal-belief exemptions because families may abuse that loophole, resulting in low vaccination rates.

Let Them Choose argues that San Diego Unified, as an individual school district, lacks the legal authority to mandate a vaccine and that only the state’s public health department and Legislature can do that.

The lawsuit also notes that it’s rare for children to get seriously sick or die from COVID and that the vaccine does not guarantee someone won’t contract COVID.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says children contract COVID at a rate of 8,035 per 100,000 in the United States and that about 0.8 percent of children who get COVID are hospitalized.


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