Litigating Alternative Facts: School Mandates in the Courts

60 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2018 Last revised: 21 Nov 2018

Date Written: February 7, 2018


In June 2015, California's governor signed into law SB277, which removed the personal belief exemption to school immunization requirements, making medical exemptions the only valid way to send an unvaccinated child in the affected categories to school. Naturally, vaccine-hesitant parents opposed the legislation. After their efforts failed in the legislature, they turned to the courts, raising arguments old and new. To date, the five lawsuits opponents filed against the new law failed. This Article explains why courts in the United States, which consistently upheld school immunization requirements, are correct to do so. These requirements are supported by strong policy reasons, since they dramatically reduce the risk of outbreaks of potentially deadly diseases, and fit with our basic principles of state police power, reasonable limits on individual rights, and protecting children. They are also supported by over a hundred years of jurisprudence. Using the opponents' arguments to identify the strongest claims against SB277, the Article explains why those arguments - including claims based in the First Amendment, in parental rights, and in the right to education - cannot stand.

Keywords: Vaccines, public health, health law, constitutional law, parental rights, freedom of religion

JEL Classification: I18, K32, H41, H75

Suggested Citation

Reiss, Dorit Rubinstein, Litigating Alternative Facts: School Mandates in the Courts (February 7, 2018). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 21, Forthcoming, UC Hastings Research Paper No. 267, Available at SSRN: or

Dorit Rubinstein Reiss (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States
415-5654844 (Phone)
415-5654865 (Fax)

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