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California appeals panel rejects San Diego Unified appeal of vaccine mandate ruling

Student at Hoover High School receives first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on May 10, 2021.
Alexandra Rangel
/
KPBS
Student at Hoover High School receives first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on May 10, 2021.

A state appellate court panel ruled against the San Diego Unified School District Tuesday in its appeal of a judge's decision striking down its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students.

A three-justice panel from the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in agreement with San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer's finding that only the state can implement such a mandate without exemptions for religious or personal beliefs.

Thejudge ruled last Decemberthat 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 an exercise of authority that lies only with the state.

The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by local parents group Let Them Choose against the school district, which sought to require unvaccinated students to take part in remote learning via independent study. Meyer said attendance in an independent study program must be voluntary, while such a program would be mandatory under the district's roadmap.

In Tuesday's ruling, the appellate panel wrote that the district's roadmap requires students "to choose between a mandated COVID-19 vaccination and involuntary independent study ... a choice the legislature does not permit the district to compel."

Earlier this year, the school district delayed implementing its mandate until at least July of next year.

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