Distance learning

In August 2021, the Edmond Public School District (Oklahoma) implemented a quarantine policy requiring unvaccinated students who had not tested positive for COVID-19 within ninety days and who were identified as a close contact of a positive COVID-19 case to quarantine for either seven or ten days.

On the contrary, vaccinated students who were identified as a close contact were not required to quarantine unless they displayed symptoms.

The parents of a number of children enrolled in Edmond Public Schools and affected by the policy filed suit alleging that it was in breach of: i) a state law prohibiting school districts to require a vaccination against COVID-19 as a condition of admittance to or attendance of the school; ii) their children's Fourteenth Amendment right to procedural due process; and iii) their children's First Amendment right to freely assemble.

By decision of 28.3.2023, the Supreme Court of Oklahoma upheld plaintiffs’ claims. “To the extent District uses a student's vaccination status as a factor of whether they can attend school, § 1210.189(A)(1) is violated. The statute explicitly prohibits school districts from utilizing a student's COVID-19 vaccination status as a condition of whether he or she may attend school in-person”, the Court stressed. Accordingly, the school district’s argument that the Policy was not based on COVID-19 vaccination status and that what determined whether a student should be temporarily quarantined was evidence of that student's heightened immunity to COVID-19, did not stand. “While it appears that the District's intention was to curb the spread of COVID-19, the Policy effectively prohibits unvaccinated students from attending school when exposed to COVID-19 because of their COVID-19 vaccination status”, the Court found. In light of the above, the Court granted declaratory judgment in favor of Parents and enjoined defendants from enforcing the policy.

Reference: Shellem et al v. Grunewald et al, Supreme Court of Oklahoma, 28.3.2023

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