September 01, 2021

Culver City USD Gets a Cease-and-Desist Letter Over Illegal Vaccine Mandate

Requiring students to be vaccinated for COVID-19 is beyond the authority of local school districts.  Culver City Unified School District is doing it anyway.  Jessica Barsotti, a lawyer with Children’s Health Defense’s California chapter, has put the Superintendent and Board Members on notice with a Cease and Desist letter sent on August 25, 2021.

Illegal Vaccine Mandates

Parents of Culver City Unified School District (CCUSD) students were shocked to receive a letter from Superintendent Quoc Tran stating that all students 12 and over must show proof of COVID-19 vaccination to attend classes.  Children’s Health Defense, California Chapter (CHD-CA) has stepped in to inform and warn CCUSD about the limits of its authority to mandate vaccines.

As Ms. Barsotti noted in her letter to the Superintendent and Board Members, there isn’t even an FDA approved vaccine available for students under 16.  Even if such a vaccine were available, the local school district would be overstepping its bounds to require it. Only the state legislature or the California Department of Public Health can require it.

Legislating School Vaccine Requirements

For the California legislature to make this vaccine a condition of in-person schooling, a bill would need to be authored and pass through the normal steps to become law.  This is generally not a very quick process.  While there are sneaky ways to speed it up, bills usually take months to be reviewed by various committees in both the Senate and the Assembly, sometimes being amended and re-reviewed several times before being voted on. Even then, the Governor has veto power.  No bill requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for in-person schooling has even been proposed yet.

CDPH and School Vaccine Requirements

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) was granted the ability to add vaccines to the list required for in-person schooling by SB 277 in 2015.  The law reads

(a) As used in this chapter, “governing authority” means the governing board of each school district or the authority of each other private or public institution responsible for the operation and control of the institution or the principal or administrator of each school or institution.
(b) The governing authority shall not unconditionally admit any person as a pupil of any private or public elementary or secondary school, child care center, day nursery, nursery school, family day care home, or development center, unless, prior to his or her first admission to that institution, he or she has been fully immunized. The following are the diseases for which immunizations shall be documented:
(1) Diphtheria.
(2) Haemophilus influenzae type b.
(3) Measles.
(4) Mumps.
(5) Pertussis (whooping cough).
(6) Poliomyelitis.
(7) Rubella.
(8) Tetanus.
(9) Hepatitis B.
(10) Varicella (chickenpox).
(11) Any other disease deemed appropriate by the department, taking into consideration the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Section (b)(11) is what allows the CDPH, referred to as “the department,” to add to this list.  No other organization was granted authority to add to the list of required vaccines.  So far, the CDPH has not issued any order or regulation adding SARS-Cov2 (the virus that causes COVID-19 illness) to the list of diseases children must be immunized against.

Exemptions Required

California law is very clear that if the CDPH does add a new immunization requirement, both medical and personal belief exemptions must be allowed.  While medical exemptions are vanishingly hard to come by, a personal belief exemption should be very simple to submit.  It’s a hot topic right now, and you can see some examples of a religious or personal belief exemption on our Resources page.

The Ball is in Their Court

After receiving the letter from Ms. Barsotti, Culver City USD’s Superintendent and board will no longer be able to say they didn’t know what they were doing.  They have been told, in the clearest of terms, that they have exceeded their lawful authority, need to remove their mandate immediately, and must inform all the confused parents about their right to refuse this vaccination for their children.  Now, it is up to them to do the right thing.

Read the Letter

Is your school district illegally requiring a COVID-19 vaccine for in-person learning?  Contact us through the School Mandate form on our Mandates & Injuries page.