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Emergency injunction in courts temporarily stalls SDUSD COVID-19 vaccination mandate

The injunction shall be in effect only while a “per se” deferral of vaccination is available to pregnant SDUSD students under current mandate per court documents.

SAN DIEGO — A family from Scripps Ranch High School that sued the San Diego Unified School District over its vaccine mandate based on religious beliefs received an emergency injunction one day before the deadline of the required vaccination mandate.

On Sunday, November 28, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit filed the decision for John Doe v. San Diego Unified School District, reading in part:

“The injunction shall be in effect only while a “per se” deferral of vaccination is available to pregnant students under San Diego Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate. The injunction shall terminate upon removal of the “per se” deferral option for pregnant students.”

The order was made by two of the Circuit Judges with a Partial Dissent by Judge Ikuta who concurred in part and dissented in part.

IKUTA, Circuit Judge: “I concur in granting Doe’s emergency motion for an injunction pending appeal. But I would keep the injunction in effect until the San Diego Unified School District ceases to treat any students (not just pregnant students) seeking relief from the vaccination mandate for secular reasons more favorably than students seeking relief for religious reasons, because any unvaccinated student attending in-person classes poses the same risk to the school district’s interest in ensuring a safe school environment.”

Jonna is Special Counsel for the Thomas More Society, the law firm representing a student at Scripps Ranch High School who says her religious beliefs prevent her from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. 

Jonna released a statement after the injunction was filed, stating “We are very pleased with the Ninth Circuit’s grant of the rare remedy of emergency injunctive relief pending appeal, which prevents the San Diego Unified School District’s vaccine mandate – one of the harshest in the nation – from going into operation on November 29, 2021.”

On Nov. 29, all eligible students in the San Diego Unified School District were to be required to at least have their first vaccine shot. Students are not able to request a religious exemption which prompted the appeal.

“The teachers at San Diego Unified actually have the opportunity to submit requests for religious exemptions but the students don’t. It doesn’t really make any constitutional sense or logical sense,” said Paul Jonna.

According to the National Institutes of Health, cell lines developed from past abortions are used in the testing or development of certain COVID-19 vaccines but mRNA vaccines are not manufactured with cell lines.

“This family is not anti-vaccine. They’ve taken other vaccines and it’s vaccines like this that have a connection to abortion that they’re opposed to," Jonna said.

San Diego Unified School District's mandate says if eligible students are not fully vaccinated by Dec. 20, they’ll have to enroll in independent study programs and will not be allowed to participate in extracurricular activities. Jonna said this would be devastating for his client.

“She either has to take the vaccine and violate her faith or basically withdraw from sports. She’s a preeminent athlete, she’s in multiple sports, could lose the chance of a sports scholarship, then do remote distance learning, which are all unnecessary,” Jonna said.

News 8 reached out to the San Diego Unified School District on October 25, 2021, but they do not comment on pending lawsuits.

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