San Diego Unified COVID-19 vaccine mandate on hold until further notice
Speaker 1: (00:00)
A legal setback for San Diego unified school district and their effort to mandate vaccines for students 16 and up a San Diego county judge ruled the district. Doesn't have the authority to impose the mandate. This comes as cases surge. Now school officials are saying it's no longer a question of if students get COVID, but when joining us to discuss the recent development is KPBS education reporter mg Perez mg. Welcome. Thank you. Uh, why did the judge feel imposing a mandate was beyond San Diego unified authority? Well,
Speaker 2: (00:33)
It's a matter of the law and the law simply states that the state is responsible for setting all mandates for vaccinations. So under of that law, uh, technically San Diego unified, uh, mandate is illegal and that's the reason the judge said it could not stand.
Speaker 1: (00:50)
So now why didn't the state legislature then approve the mandate?
Speaker 2: (00:54)
Well, it is not as simple as just asking. Uh, it is, uh, government body, uh, of legislatures who, uh, really have differing opinions on the subject. So it's a matter of finding a sponsorship in the Le in the legislature, uh, for legislation that would allow this to go forward. And that is in process, uh, and the district is appealing, but of course, all of that takes time. And meanwhile, the COVID cases continue to rise.
Speaker 1: (01:23)
In your reporting, you spoke with board trustee, Richard Burrera, what's his reaction to this news.
Speaker 2: (01:28)
He is a very trusted source and I've interviewed him several times. I don't think I've ever heard him speak so bluntly about this subject. Uh, he is frustrated, uh, and he is really encouraging parents and families and staff members and students to get vaccinated, uh, in order to help the district try to stop the spread.
Speaker 1: (01:51)
Is there a sense of if the district will ever be able to impose a vaccine mandate for students 16 and up? Yes,
Speaker 2: (01:57)
I do believe that eventually it will happen, but as I said, the appeals process takes time. They had hoped to have this up and running by the start of the spring semester, which is January 24th. Barre said, uh, quite frankly, that is not gonna happen in the next two weeks. And so it's really a waiting game. When can they get the appeal and then ask the judge for a stay so that they can go ahead with the mandate?
Speaker 1: (02:22)
Uh, since the risk of contracting COVID is higher at this point, uh, what's the plan. If students get infected
Speaker 2: (02:29)
Plain and simple, if your student is positive, they cannot come to school that has not changed. And that's the reason the district is saying, although they can't force parents and students to get vaccinated, they strongly encourage it because if you are positive, you cannot be in the classroom.
Speaker 1: (02:45)
Uh, do students who want to stay out of the classroom, still have the option to attend remotely?
Speaker 2: (02:51)
Well, it is certainly an option, but really it's not optional. If you are testing positive and cannot be in the classroom, then the virtual academy is, uh, the opportunity for learning. Unfortunately like all the other districts they're short staffed and, uh, they really are struggling to get that virtual academy to a point where it can serve all the students
Speaker 1: (03:14)
Who need it in your piece. Bere said, you know, it's no longer a quest if students get COVID, but when what kind of a position do you think this puts parents in?
Speaker 2: (03:24)
Well, it's a simple, uh, equation. If you are not vaccinated, what he was saying is you will get COVID. It is that contagious in this moment. And so parents really are encouraged to get vaccinated themselves and make sure that they're so are protected.
Speaker 1: (03:40)
So since imposing a mandate at this point is out what's plan B, what is, what does the continuing effort, uh, to push vaccinations, look like
Speaker 2: (03:49)
Testing, testing, and testing, and also getting vaccinated. The that's really the only solution and the only option that the district has left, they did send out the home test hits, uh, over the holiday break. They're hoping that the state will provide more of those. And so they are encouraging, uh, parents and students to get tested, and they are testing at school locations at least once a week. So that is there and available and a solution. But at the end of the day, it's about getting vaccinated. As Barre told us. It's not a matter of if it's a matter of when
Speaker 1: (04:24)
I've been speaking with KPBS education, reporter mg Perez, mg. Thank you so much for joining us. Thank you, Jade.
The San Diego Unified School District cannot enforce its highly promoted COVID-19 vaccination mandate. It is on hold until further notice.
At the moment, the district’s attorneys are working on their appeal to last week’s legal setback following a ruling by by a San Diego County judge. The judge reiterated that the district cannot enforce a mandate requiring eligible students 16 and up to be fully vaccinated. In December, the judge ruled that the county’s largest school district does not have legal authority to do that, and it is only the state legislature that can approve a requirement.
“The mandate will not go into effect until further notice, and it is very unlikely that it will be in place by the start of the spring semester on the 24th,” Board Trustee Richard Barrera told KPBS News on Wednesday.
The school board had set that deadline for eligible students as a requirement to return to in-person classes for the remainder of the school year. The plan had been for those students who did not comply to be banned from on-campus learning and forced to attend through the Virtual Academy.
“If the legislature moved forward and acted,” Barrera said, “then our district and other districts would be able to implement a vaccine mandate.”
With no immediate legislation pending, San Diego Unified is left in a legal limbo. The school district has been aggressive in its efforts to get as many of its staff and more than 100,000 students, and their families vaccinated to stop the spread of the omicron variant surge. For now, the only option is to simply keep pushing vaccinations with a warning to those who refuse.
“It’s not a matter of if you will get COVID — it’s a matter of when you will get COVID. Because we’re testing regularly, if your student is positive for COVID, they are not going to be able to come to school,” Barrera said.