Lawyers representing a Scripps Ranch High School student who sued the San Diego Unified School District over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate have filed an appeal after a federal judge denied the teen’s request for an exemption.
The 16-year-old junior and her family contend in the lawsuit that the girl’s Christian beliefs prohibit her from taking the vaccine since it was tested on stem cell lines derived from aborted fetal cells collected decades ago. Fetal cell lines are regularly used in the research and development of vaccines and common medications including Tylenol, Pepto Bismol and Sudafed.
The lawsuit claimed that the district’s policy, which requires staff and students age 16 and older to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 20, would violate the girl’s right to freely exercise her faith.
“Our clients are opposed to the COVID-19 vaccines because they were all either made or tested using aborted fetal cells,” said Paul Jonna, a Rancho Santa Fe attorney working on the case, in a statement. “Our clients are firmly pro-life and refuse to benefit from vaccines that were made in this way, which they view as immoral — as do many other people of faith.”
A San Diego federal judge on Nov. 18 denied the girl’s request for a temporary restraining order against the school’s mandate. . On Tuesday, her lawyers announced they had appealed the ruling and were asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for an emergency injunction by Nov. 29. That’s the date students would need to begin the vaccination process in order to meet the district’s deadline.
If students do not get vaccinated, they will have to sign up for distance learning and cannot participate in extracurricular activities like sports — a requirement that could mean missing out on chances for college sports scholarships, the teen’s lawyers say.
Lawyers also noted that while San Diego Unified is not offering religious exemptions to students, they are available to teachers. The district also is allowing unvaccinated students with medical exemptions to attend school in person and participate in school athletics.
District officials were not available for comment Wednesday, but San Diego Unified Board Chair Richard Barrera, who was named in the teen’s lawsuit, has said the district is not offering personal belief exemptions for students because families may end up abusing that loophole, resulting in low COVID-19 vaccination rates.