Students Vindicated in San Diego Public School Vaccine Mandate Religious Discrimination Lawsuit

March 9, 2023

Thomas More Society Attorneys Move to Dismiss Case Following California Supreme Court Affirmation of Rights

The San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees has been barred from ever implementing the discriminatory vaccine mandate it passed in September 2021. Thomas More Society attorneys moved on March 6, 2023, to dismiss a federal lawsuit in which they represented students and families unlawfully treated with prejudice by the school district because of their religious beliefs. The federal lawsuit, explained Paul Jonna, Thomas More Society Special Counsel and partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP, can now be dismissed following a final determination by the California Supreme Court affirming lower state court decisions that the mandate was unconstitutional and illegal.

“This is indeed a victory,” declared Jonna, “One that demonstrates the efficacy of judicial power to uphold the laws of the land.”

Jonna explained how, in September 2021, the San Diego Unified School District Board of Trustees passed a requirement that all students over the age of 16 must be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes in person. The board expressly stated that no students with religious objections to a COVID-19 vaccination would be accommodated.

Thomas More Society attorneys filed a federal lawsuit in October 2021 on behalf of a Scripps Ranch High School student athlete and her parents, and the case grew to include several student families within the school district.

As a result of strong pushback that the school district received about the blatantly discriminatory COVID-19 vaccination mandate, the board repeatedly delayed the mandate enforcement date. Due to this “pause” in implementing the unconstitutional policy, both the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Supreme Court declined to grant emergency judicial relief to the students and families. However, 11 of the judges on the Ninth Circuit issued dissents to that prudential refusal, making it clear that that they understood that the San Diego Unified School District Board’s COVID-19 vaccination mandate was unconstitutional.

“Because the court’s denial was without prejudice,” noted Thomas More Society Special Counsel Jeffrey Trissell, “the door remained open for ongoing legal proceeding and the seeking of a new injunction should the school board go ahead and implement the paused mandate.” Trissell was among the Thomas More Society attorneys joining Jonna in defending the San Diego families.

Concurrently, as the federal judges were dissenting, California courts were addressing the discriminatory mandate, striking it down as illegal.

On February 22, 2023, the California Supreme Court affirmed lower court decisions, making clear that the San Diego Unified School District may never lift the pause it had placed on its COVID-19 vaccination mandate.

“This California Supreme Court has ensured that the rights of these students and families will be honored in this matter,” Jonna stated, “Thus making it possible for the Thomas More Society to dismiss this federal lawsuit, closing the book on this chapter of the San Diego’s public schools’ outrageous disregard for the constitutional rights of its stakeholders—the families that pay the taxes that foot the bill for the schools they operate and administrate.”

Read the Motion to Voluntarily Dismiss Appeal filed March 6, 2023, in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit by Thomas More Society attorneys in John Doe, et al. v. San Diego Unified School District, et al. here.

Associated Attorney
Paul Jonna
Special Counsel