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A civil rights lawsuit has been filed against Southern California community colleges by a group of employees and a student who are challenging vaccine, mask and testing mandates that have aimed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campuses.

The lawsuit, filed March 30 in San Diego federal court, names the San Diego Community College District, Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District and the South Orange County Community College District. The districts currently require staff and students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to be on campus, and to wear masks indoors. In some cases, unvaccinated students and staff may be required to test once or twice a week.

The lawsuit alleges the schools did not have the authority to adopt such widespread mandates and also ignored or failed to adequately accommodate employees and students seeking religious-belief or medical exemptions.

The plaintiffs are two employees in the Grossmont district, two employees and a student in the San Diego district, and two employees in the Orange County district. Because of “deeply held religious beliefs or medical conditions,” they are unable or unwilling to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the lawsuit states.

They also oppose “the onerous testing and masking requirements being forced upon them,” it adds.

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The employees and student are asking not only for a jury trial, but for the judge to take more immediate action by issuing a temporary restraining order and injunction against the mandates.

Representatives for the three districts either declined to speak to the Union-Tribune about the pending litigation as a matter of policy or did not respond to a request for comment last week.

The lawsuit joins hundreds of others that have been filed over the past two years around the country — against schools, as well as private and government employers — challenging vaccine mandates and other pandemic responses.

Legal experts have previously said that employers can generally mandate such vaccines, but they must make individualized assessments for religious and medical exceptions and make reasonable accommodations. Pandemic-era lawsuits have drawn mixed rulings in courts, and issues they raise will likely be filtered up to appellate courts.

Source: This post first appeared on sandiegouniontribune.com

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