The family of a Scripps Ranch High School student athlete is suing the San Diego Unified School District for religious discrimination over the districts’ strictest-in-the-nation COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Thomas More Society attorneys filed suit against the school district and its Board of Education on October 22, 2021, in United States District Court, on behalf of the 16-year-old high school junior and her parents claiming that the Vaccination Roadmap violates her rights under the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution.
But it’s been a bumpy road. The Thomas More Society explains:
On November 18, 2021 the judge in the case denied our client a temporary restraining order without a hearing. On Friday November 19, 2021 the Thomas More Society filed a Plaintiffs-Appellants’ urgent motion for an injunction pending appeal, requesting relief by Monday, November 29, 2021. On Sunday, November 28 the Ninth Circuit Court granted emergency injunctive relief pending appeal, which prevents the San Diego Unified School District’s (“SDUSD”) vaccine mandate from going into operation on November 29, 2021. The Court’s full ruling will follow shortly, but the Ninth Circuit panel focused on the “per se” deferral for pregnant students – which allows them to postpone vaccination for 9 months, even though SDUSD’s own medical “experts” recommend that pregnant women get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the Thomas More Society, the United States Supreme Court will now consider intervening in the case of a San Diego high school student who is suffering religious discrimination at the hands of the public schools.
Thomas More Society attorneys are representing the family of a Scripps Ranch High School student who is being denied her First Amendment right to a religious exemption under the San Diego Unified School District’s Covid-19 vaccination mandate.
Thomas More Society attorneys filed the emergency application with the U.S. Supreme Court Friday, December 10, 2021. That same day, the Supreme Court asked the San Diego Unified School District to respond to the Application by 3:00pm on December 16, 2021.
“Unlike almost every school district in the country, San Diego Unified School District requires its students to be vaccinated to attend classes in person,” said Paul Jonna, partner at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “Yet, it provides secular exemptions for over 85% of its students. But it does not allow students any religious exemptions.”
At issue is how the healthy Scripps Ranch High School 16-year-old junior, who has already recovered from Covid-19, will be excluded from her classes and consigned to online classes and excluded from her high school athletics and other in-person activities – all because the school district refuses to recognize her First Amendment right to a religious exemption.
“In stark contrast to this student’s effective expulsion from her school and sports team,” Jonna added, “the San Diego Unified School District exempts tens of thousands of this student’s classmates (and many of her teachers) from the same mandate for secular reasons. Those students receiving medical exemptions, or being given delays as children of military personnel, foster children, migrant youth, and homeless children, or those under the age of 16 as of November 1, 2021, will be in class and not be required to have been vaccinated.” He also noted that teachers can apply for and receive religious exemptions.
“These tens of thousands of exempted students carry the same or greater risk of contracting and spreading Covid-19,” Jonna said, “yet they will continue to attend the same classes, with the same teachers, and participate in the same sports activities from which our client will be banished.”
“The San Diego Unified School District seems to believe that medical reasons, secular status, concerns about FDA approval, administrative convenience, and accommodation of adult consciences are important enough to justify allowing unvaccinated individuals to come to school,” said Jeffrey Trissell, attorney at LiMandri & Jonna LLP and Thomas More Society Special Counsel. “Yet a student with sincere religious beliefs is treated harshly and banned from in-person class and athletics. That discriminatory treatment triggers strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause.”
Below is the Petition for Writ of Certiorari and Stay Pending Resolution, submitted to the United States Supreme Court on December 10, 2021:Doe-v.-SDUSD-emergency-application-FINAL
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