What to Know
- There are approximately 34,000 students in LAUSD who have not complied with the vaccine mandate, and will not be ready to return to classes come Jan. 10, the deadline established by the mandate.
- The difficulty, regardless of the decision in court, will come with shifting those 34,000 unvaccinated students into independent study programs, rather than in-person classes.
- There is no indication that LAUSD is backing down, with no leniency or extended deadlines for the vaccine requirement mentioned during public discussion.
The debate over whether all Los Angeles Unified School District students should be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before returning to school in January has made its way to court on Wednesday.
Some 84% of students at LAUSD schools have followed the vaccine requirement and are fully vaccinated.
However, according to the Los Angeles Times, there are approximately 34,000 students in LAUSD who have not complied with the vaccine mandate, and will not be ready to return to classes come Jan. 10, the deadline established by the mandate.
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Two nonprofit groups are challenging that mandate in LA Superior Court, bringing legal action against LAUSD and calling the vaccination requirement "illegal" and "unconstitutional."
The challenge was brought against LAUSD last month, after the board of education voted to mandate full COVID-19 vaccination as a requirement for any student age 12 or older to attend in-person classes.
One of the parties bringing the lawsuit against LAUSD is Children's Health Defense, a group founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that is generally against vaccines, and falsely claims that vaccines cause autism.
The attorney for the California chapter of Children's Health Defense says they served the district with a cease-and-desist letter, with a Sept. 17 deadline to avoid further legal action.
The district health firm declined to respond, that attorney said. That group, united with the Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids, says it had no choice but to follow legal action.
LAUSD has one of the strictest student and employee vaccine mandates in the nation. Students are considered in compliance if they get the vaccine, receive a medical exemption, or receive a rare deadline extension based on their extenuating personal circumstances.
As of Wednesday, there is not enough time for students to be fully vaccinated by the Jan. 10 start of the second semester if they have not already received their first dose.
One mother of three, who only gave her first name, Natalie, told NBC4 she's not against COVID-19 vaccines -- just the mandate.
"LAUSD is not above the law," she said. "This is an illegal mandate, because it is illegal to mandate an EUA, emergency use authorization, pharmaceutical. Which these vaccines are for the under-age-16 group."
The United States Department of Justice has issued an opinion stating that EUA status does not forbid businesses or other entities from requiring vaccines. That doesn't necessarily mean the courts will agree, however.
There is no indication that LAUSD is backing down, with no leniency or extended deadlines for the vaccine requirement mentioned during public discussion. The school board is scheduled to discuss the lawsuit in a closed session on Thursday.
"Los Angeles Unified is working to ensure the highest-quality instruction in the safest environment possible for all students," the district said in a public statement. "Strong scientific evidence shows that vaccinations are an essential part of protecting our communities."
The interim superintendent for LAUSD, Megan K. Reilly, says they plan to keep it that way.
The difficulty, regardless of the decision in court, will come with shifting those 34,000 unvaccinated students into independent study programs, rather than in-person classes.