California court rules school districts can’t mandate vaccines

Covid vaccine (Photo/iStock)

By JOSH FRIEDMAN

A California appeals court ruled on Tuesday that only the state, and not individual school districts, can issue vaccine mandates for students. [Napa Valley Register]

The ruling comes following a legal challenge to the San Diego Unified School District’s attempt to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students ages 16 and older. It marks the first ruling by a state appeals court and will be binding on lower courts statewide unless overturned by the California Supreme Court or contradicted by another appeals court.

In Sept. 2021, the San Diego district, which is California’s second largest school district, proposed requiring its older students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes and participate in sports and other in-person events. The proposed mandate would allow for medical exemptions but not religious or personal ones. Later, the district announced it would postpone any mandate until at least July 2023.

“The Legislature has mandated that public health officials — not school authorities — determine the disease(s) for which vaccinations are required,” the California 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego stated on Tuesday.

California requires schoolchildren to be vaccinated against 10 communicable diseases, including measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio and rubella. The appeals court noted state law allows the California Department of Public Health to add diseases to that list, but it does not expressly authorize local agencies to do so.

Previously, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced there would be a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for children to attend schools in person. But earlier this year, the state delayed implementation of the mandate, saying it would not take effect any sooner than July 1, 2023.