Wave Wire Services
LOS ANGELES — Finding that the Los Angeles Board of Education’s authority is great, but not unlimited,” a judge ruled July 6 in favor of the father of a 12-year-old student who challenged the Los Angeles Unified School District’s student coronavirus vaccine mandate, finding that the resolution approving the directive clashes with state law.
Three months after hearing arguments and taking the case under submission, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff reversed his tentative ruling in which he said he was initially inclined to find in favor of the LAUSD in the case brought by the father, who is identified in court papers only as G.F. and his son as D.F.
G.F. filed the case last October on behalf of himself and his son, a Science Academy STEM Magnet school student. G.F. maintained the state and not the LAUSD is authorized to issue vaccination mandates and that the district’s requirement that unvaccinated pupils 12 years old and over attend independent learning classes outside campus violates the state Education Code.
The judge noted in his ruling that if D.F. remains unvaccinated, he will be forced to leave the academy and be subjected to a different curriculum. He found that the student vaccine resolution approved last Sept. 9 conflicts with state law and clashes with the state Health and Safety Code by not allowing exemptions for personal beliefs.
“While LAUSD argues the court’s ruling should apply to D.F. only, the court finds no justification for such a limitation given the board’s lack of authority to adopt the resolution,” Beckloff wrote.
A spokesperson for the LAUSD released the following statement to City News Service:
“In April of this year, the Los Angeles Unified School District aligned with the state’s timeline for implementation of the governor’s student vaccine mandate wherein any vaccine requirement would not take effect until after full FDA approval and no sooner than July 1, 2023. Accordingly, the district’s alignment with the governor’s student vaccine mandate has allowed Los Angeles Unified students to enroll and attend in-person instruction. Los Angeles Unified will continue to take measures to ensure the health and safety of its students, employees and school community.”
In a sworn declaration, G.F. says he believes the vaccine could irreparably harm his son, who has already contracted and recovered from the coronavirus and may have strong natural immunity.
“Further, I worry that vaccinating him could prove even more dangerous now that he has had COVID-19,” G.F. says. “Among other things, I fear that the vaccination could overexcite his immune system and antibodies.”
Having weighed those risks against what he believes to be a “statistically minuscule risk” that his son will contract the coronavirus again, G.F. says he “vehemently objects to LAUSD’s attempt to force his (son’s) vaccination.”
D.F. has received all other required childhood immunizations, according to his father.
In their court papers, LAUSD lawyers maintain that the court relief sought by G.F. and his son “fails on every conceivable level” and should have been denied.
The relief sought by G.F. “asks this court to ignore the life-threatening risks presented by COVID-19 and the corresponding threat it poses to public education,” the LAUSD attorneys argued in their court papers.
The court ruling came as the number of coronavirus patients in Los Angeles County hospitals surged past 900, rising by nearly 100 people in the last four days, according to the latest state data released July 6.
There were 920 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals, with 89 of those being treated in intensive care, according to the state. The county’s hospitalization total had dropped as low as 209 in April, but has been steadily increasing since then as the rate of transmission has grown.
Health officials have said that many of those patients entered the hospital for other reasons before testing positive for COVID, but they still place an added burden on hospital staff as they require special care.
Statewide, the number of COVID-positive patients rose to 4,035.
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health reported 4,879 new infections and 14 additional deaths related to the virus. The number of new cases is believed to be an undercount due to the prevalence of take-home COVID tests, the results of which are not always reported to the county.
Officially, the new cases lifted the county’s cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 3,148,370. The 14 new fatalities raised the county’s death toll to 32,385.
The average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus continued to rise, reaching 16.5%.
County officials are again urged parents to get their children vaccinated against the virus, insisting that while kids tend to experience milder infections, they can still be dangerous or lead to longer-term health issues.
The county to date has confirmed 312 cases of the COVID-related Multi-Symptom Inflammatory Syndrome in Children, or MIS-C. According to the health department, two children under age 5 in the county have died of COVID during the pandemic, along with three kids aged 5 to 11 and six between 12 and 17 years old.
Health officials said outbreaks are being reported at summer camps, youth programs and day care sites.
County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer last week noted an uptick in infections related to workplaces, and urged employers to implement infection-control measures in indoor spaces, such as masking and maintaining physical distancing in communal areas.
She said one sector in particular — the TV and film industry — has already re-imposed an indoor mask mandate now that the county’s hospitalization rate has reached more than 8 per 100,000 residents.
She said that given the continued high level of virus transmission in the county — particularly with more rapid spread of the highly transmissible BA.4 and BA.5 variants — people should already be masking up indoors.