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  • Robert Lusk

District Court Tosses Disabled Students’ Challenge to COVID Vaccine Requirement

Educational institutions across the country are adopting COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The New York law at issue in this case, prohibited elementary and secondary students from attending school unless they had received a COVID-19 vaccination. The law made a relatively narrow exception for medical waivers based on CDC guidance or other nationally recognized evidence-based standards of care. Plaintiffs were the parents of several severely disabled students, many with compromised immune systems, whose doctors had issued medical waivers that were not based on CDC guidance or other nationally recognized evidence-based standards of care. Plaintiffs alleged the school districts that refused to permit their children to attend school had violated their constitutional rights to substantive due process and equal protection, had enforced unconstitutional conditions to their children’s right to attend school, and had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.


The district court, in Doe, et. al., v Zucker, et al., after denying plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction last year, 78 IDELR 45 (NDNY 2020), dismissed their case entirely, 520 F. Supp. 3d 218, 78 IDELR 109 (NDNY 2021). The court observed that none of many constitutional rights asserted by plaintiffs were “fundamental.” Thus, the New York law was constitutional if it was rationally related to a legitimate governmental interest. Here, New York asserted its COVID-19 vaccine requirement, and its relatively narrow medical exception, were rationally related to reducing the spread of the COVID virus. The district court accepted New York’s argument and, accordingly, held the COVID vaccine requirement was constitutional.