The order handed down by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on October 1 mandates children as young as five get the shot in order to attend in-person classes. Medical and religious exemptions are available, but the rules have not yet been spelled out by the state.
Regardless, says Brad Dacus of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, parents – by law – can opt out of what he calls "an egregious attempt" to challenge their rights.
"Under California Health and Safety Code 120338, parents in California are entitled to opt out of the vaccine for their children based on their personal beliefs," he explains.
Although Los Angeles and San Diego have issued their own student vaccination mandates, Dacus notes Newsom is the nation's first governor to launch a statewide mandate.
"Parents in California are in a state of panic, [and] Christian schools are in a state of panic," he tells AFN. "If there's any resistance with regard to the statutory rights of parents, we at Pacific Justice Institute stand ready to take this battle into the courts."
Toward that end, PJI offers parents an online request whereby they can request a vaccination exemption form and receive guidance on the mandate when more details are released.
The Associated Press reports Newsom plans to have the mandate take effect in January 2022, phasing in the youngest children after the vaccine receives final approval by the FDA – and that any student who refuses to get the jab would be forced to complete an independent study course at home.
Headed for the exits?
Newsom's mandate could spark a mass exodus from public schools and the state, according to Jonathan Keller with the California Family Council. Like Dacus, Keller says the Democratic governor is usurping parental authority.
"Once again, Gavin Newsom is placing himself in between parents and their children," Keller tells AFN. "He is saying We, the state, know what's best for your children and we're not going to let you make any choices for unique medical situations, unique religious concerns."
And this mandate, Keller adds, may be a tipping point for many families who will be seeking different options for their children's education.
"That means either by homeschooling their kids – as we saw last year during lockdowns and the restrictions, [there was] a huge spike in homeschooling in the State of California and around the nation; or, sadly, I think you may see another mass exodus: a mass exodus of parents and kids from California."
Editor's note: Comments from Jonathan Keller added after story was originally published.