Judge Shoots Down COVID Vaccine Mandate From San Diego Schools, Says It's up to the State

San Diego Superior Court Judge John Meyer shot down a COVID vaccine mandate for San Diego's public schools on Monday, saying the decision for such a move lies with the state.

Meyer ruled that the San Diego Unified School District's COVID vaccine mandate, which was set to start on January 24, conflicted with state law and that the district does not have the authority to create such a mandate, according to KNSD-TV.

An attorney representing the school district, Mark. R. Bresee, was disappointed with the ruling and said the district is looking into options regarding its response.

The judge "concluded only the state can act regarding vaccinations, even though the law specifically allows and encourages local vaccination programs," said Bresee in a statement. "Even Judge Meyer acknowledged in his ruling that the vaccine mandate 'appears to be necessary and rational, and the district's desire to protect its students from COVID-19 is commendable.'"

California public schools will eventually have to comply with a state mandate that requires COVID-19 vaccination for students to attend school physically. However, that deadline has yet to be formalized due to the mandate relying on full vaccine approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Governor Gavin Newsom has supported local districts enforcing their own COVID vaccine mandates for students in the interim.

San Diego Schools, Ruling, Vaccine Mandate Ban
All California public schools will eventually have to comply with a state vaccine mandate that requires vaccination for students to attend school physically. In this photo, a child receives a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine at an event launching school vaccinations in Los Angeles on November 5. Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The tentative ruling sided with the parent group Let Them Choose, which filed the lawsuit in October arguing that the decision to mandate vaccines must be made at the state level and also needs to include a "personal belief exemption"—unless the state Legislature acts to eliminate the exemption.

San Diego Unified announced in September it would require all students 16 and older to get the COVID-19 vaccine to attend in-person classes starting January 24. Unvaccinated students, unless they have a medical exemption, would have to transfer into the district's remote learning program, according to the mandate, which did not include religious or personal belief exemptions.

In his ruling, Meyer said that San Diego Unified will be required to allow students to attend classes in-person as long as they have received the 10 vaccines mandated by the state, which does not include the COVID-19 vaccine.

The judge also said that state law requires independent study programs to be voluntary and that a forced transfer into such a program violates state law.

Meyer has five days to sign Monday's ruling, and the school district can decide to appeal, during which time the ruling can't be enforced.

San Diego Unified is one of several large school districts in California to announce such mandates. Other districts in the state with similar mandates include the Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento and West Contra Costa Unified school districts.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

San Diego Schools, Ruling, Vaccine Mandate Ban
A deadline for California's student vaccine mandate has yet to be set due to the state requirement relying on full approval for the vaccine from the Food and Drug Administration. Above, a 17-year-old receives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a mobile vaccination clinic during a back-to-school event offering school supplies, vaccinations, face masks and other resources for children and their families at the Weingart East Los Angeles YMCA in Los Angeles on August 7. Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images