Judge leans toward denying a suit seeking to halt L.A. Unified student vaccine mandate

Protestors against an Los Angeles school vaccine mandate hold signs.
Mayra Cuevas, right, with sister Lucila Cuevas, both of who have children in the Los Angeles Unified School District, at a rally against the LAUSD student COVID-19 vaccination mandate outside the Stanley Mosk Courthouse on Wednesday.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A judge said Wednesday he is inclined to deny a request by two parent groups for a preliminary injunction against the Los Angeles Unified School District’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, but he took the case under submission after a raucous hearing in which he twice admonished the crowd against outbursts.

In front of a packed courtroom, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mitchell Beckloff said he wanted to study the issues further. His tentative ruling was to deny the injunction sought by the California Chapter of Children’s Health Defense as well as a second group, Protection of the Educational Rights of Kids, which filed the petition on Oct. 13. About 930 LAUSD parents are members of PERK and another 540 of CHD-CA, according to the court papers of the two nonprofit groups.

Opponents of the LAUSD vaccine mandate also demonstrated in front of the Grand Avenue entrance to the courthouse.


The mandate requires students 12 years and older to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine by specified dates during the fall term as a condition of continuing their in-person education. The petition contends that even with no COVID-19 vaccine requirement in place prior to returning to in-person learning in August, LAUSD students have not experienced severe numbers of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations or deaths.

“LAUSD has a constitutional mandate to provide a safe and peaceful campus for its student and staff,” the judge wrote in his tentative ruling.

But attorneys Nicole Pearson and Jessica Barsotti, on behalf of the petitioners, told the judge that the LAUSD vaccine resolution enacted Sept. 9 infringes on the authority of the state Department of Public Health, which they say has the power to decide whether to add another vaccine to the 10 already required for California students.

Beckloff drew murmurs from the largely anti-mandate audience when he called the vaccination directive a “campus community health and safety measure” that does not deny an education to any student. Later, many in the crowd loudly uttered, “what?” when Sue Ann Salmon Evans, an attorney for the district, said the district was “not mandating this vaccine” and also said no students were being prevented from getting an education.

According to Evans, school districts have responsibilities that go beyond education, including providing children with a safe environment. So, by choosing to not have their children vaccinated, parents are selecting remote learning in place of in-person study, she said.

But Pearson said the inadequacy of remote learning “is the reason why we are here” and added that if school districts are allowed to decide what vaccines their students must take, there is nothing to stop them from making students take Adderall — used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — to make them more focused in class or from giving pupils birth control.

Amanda Spinola, a mother of a freshman male student at Grant High School, said in a declaration that she and her family oppose having her son, J.S., receive the coronavirus vaccine shots.

`”We have personal beliefs against this shot and he is a healthy, active child who is not at risk,” Spinola said. “He is more at risk of developing adverse effects from the shot. Any possible benefit to J.S. is by far outweighed by the known risks.”


Spinola said her son “looked worried and was tearful” when told about the Board of Education’s vaccine mandate.

“He was scared, sad and hurt,” Spinola said. “He immediately asked why the board did this, if he was going to get kicked off the football team, if he was going to be allowed to go back to school and if he was going to die if he got the shot.”

In October, Judge Amy Hogue denied the petitioners’ request for a temporary restraining order.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, officials said some 34,000 students are in danger of violating the district’s mandate and may not be able to return to school in January.

The board also voted unanimously to fire 496 employees for not complying with the district’s separate COVID-19 vaccination mandate for employees.