A federal judge in San Diego on Friday said he will take at least a week before ruling on a request to temporarily stop California’s new vaccination law, an unwelcome delay for vaccination opponents seeking a speedy injunction that would allow students who don’t meet vaccination requirements to start the new school year.

Judge Dana Sabraw said he was aware of the urgency of his ruling and asked about start dates for California schools, according to courtroom observers. Some schools in California have already opened their doors and the Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest district in the state, will begin school Aug. 16. Sabraw said he would likely issue a ruling the week of Aug. 22.

Rebecca Estepp, spokeswoman for Education 4 All, a Sacramento-based advocacy group that requested the temporary restraining order as part of its lawsuit seeking to overturn the law, called the delay “unfortunate” but somewhat understandable. “It’s a complicated topic,” she said. She described Sabraw’s manner during the oral arguments as “very thorough and very thoughtful” and said, “It was a fair hearing.”

The law, which took effect July 1 and is often referred to by its legislative name, Senate Bill 277, requires students who attend public or private schools or child care centers to be vaccinated against 10 serious, communicable diseases unless they have a medical exemption. Previously, unvaccinated children could attend public or private schools or child care centers if their parents stated they were opposed to vaccinations based on their personal beliefs.

Education 4 All filed suit July 1 against the California Department of Education and other state agencies charging that the law violates the right to education guaranteed in the California Constitution.

The suit, Whitlow v. the California Department of Education, was filed on behalf of Ana Whitlow, a San Diego parent of a 7th-grader and a kindergartner who does not want her children to obtain the required vaccinations, and 20 other individuals and nonprofit organizations. If granted, an injunction would temporarily reinstate the personal belief exemption to vaccination requirements while the lawsuit proceeds.

The legal complaint cites the 1971 California Supreme Court decision in Serrano v. Priest, a pivotal case concerning inequities in education, that recognized education as “the bright hope” for the poor and oppressed and noted that society “has a compelling interest in affording children an opportunity to attend school.”

The complaint continues, “But today, as a result of the enactment of Senate Bill 277, the State of California denies tens of thousands of children access to its schools and daycares and relegates them to the separate-and-unequal position of learning in isolation, in permanent quarantine.” Education 4 All is represented by lawyers James Turner and Betsy Lehrfeld of Washington, D.C.; Robert Moxley of Cheyenne, Wyoming; and Carl Lewis of San Diego.

But lawyers with the office of California Attorney General Kamala Harris argued Friday that decades of jurisprudence have upheld the right of the state to impose vaccination requirements in service of the greater good of public health. In its written response to the suit, the state’s lawyers said that claims made by Education 4 All “disregard decades of scientific knowledge and legal precedent to advance their subjective personal beliefs” and prevent the implementation of “an important public health measure.”

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law and a proponent of the vaccination law, was in the courtroom Friday. A close observer of the legal arguments, Reiss said that the decision to grant a temporary restraining order must weigh the question of harm: the harm to public health and the state if the law is temporarily put on hold and the harm to the children whose parents choose not to have them vaccinated and who therefore must be home schooled.

She noted that Sabraw “clearly read the briefs very closely and asked thoughtful questions,”  but said it was impossible to predict the judge’s decision.

In a statement, the California Department of Education said, “We can’t comment on ongoing litigation, but Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson strongly supports vaccinating students. It’s the law, and it’s the right thing to do for public health.”

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  1. DK 1 year ago1 year ago

    Has there been any ruling on this case?

    Replies

    • Jane Meredith Adams 1 year ago1 year ago

      Hi DK. The judge denied the request for a preliminary injunction.
      Jane

  2. Blossom Borba 1 year ago1 year ago

    The government should not keep passing these laws that violate civil, human, and religious rights based on popular social beliefs. Every person has their right to their beliefs especially when it is backed up by proof. The government should not be able to force medicine against anyones beliefs based on such little evidence or it will just show it's corruption. "We the people" is what sets us apart from other countries and we the people … Read More

    The government should not keep passing these laws that violate civil, human, and religious rights based on popular social beliefs. Every person has their right to their beliefs especially when it is backed up by proof. The government should not be able to force medicine against anyones beliefs based on such little evidence or it will just show it’s corruption.
    “We the people” is what sets us apart from other countries and we the people need to help keep this country from following the rest of the world’s corruption and dictatorships. Keep our rights as parents and do not force medicine on anyone. Repeal SB-277. There is no proof or justification for this law. Only theories and one sided science. Exemptions were not hurting any students contrary to what the media and paid for commercials want people to believe.
    Where is the proof? Educate the public on how to stop the spread of disease and stop telling people vaccines do because there is no concrete proof that that is the case. Only theories. Educate not segregate. Maybe we need to reevaluate what we are teaching people.

  3. Echo 1 year ago1 year ago

    Senators Pan and Allen and Gov Brown took away parents rights and informed consent! WE will vote them out! Bye bye Brown, Pan and Allen, time to find real jobs!

  4. forvaccinesafety 1 year ago1 year ago

    Medical exemptions do not provide adequate remedy to harm from vaccination.
    None of the cases in vaccine court had medical exemptions, so cannot predict harm.
    Therefore they are not sufficient protection, given the potential for loss of life, or permanent disability.
    Medical exemptions, thus, do not properly balance the right of the individual with the public good.

    Replies

    • Paul Muench 1 year ago1 year ago

      That depends a lot upon which experts you believe. To me that seems just another angle on social norms.

  5. Paul Muench 1 year ago1 year ago

    There’s already an out clause for those who could suffer serious harm from being vaccinated. So is this just a matter of getting used to social norms?