SAN DIEGO - A lawsuit has been filed seeking to overturn California's strict new law requiring mandatory vaccines for school children.
The suit filed by a group of parents and the nonprofit Education 4 All was filed in San Diego federal court on Friday, the same day the new law took effect.
It says that the law violates the children's right to an education as guaranteed under California's constitution, and asks for a judge to suspend the law while the suit plays out.
The law "has made second class citizens out of children who for very compelling reasons are not vaccinated" according to federal regulations, plaintiff's attorney Robert T. Moxley said in a statement. "We are hoping the court will grant us an injunction while the judicial process takes place to see if this law is constitutional, which it most certainly does not seem to be."
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the vaccine measure, SB277, into law last year amid fierce opposition from some parents groups who argued the state should not force their children to be vaccinated.
The measles outbreak that started at Disneyland in 2014 led to growing demands that California tighten regulations laws that allowed many parents to refuse to vaccinate school-age children. California joined Mississippi and West Virginia as the only states with such strict requirements.
Brown said at the time that despite a growing movement among parents to withhold recommended vaccines from their children, the science is clear that vaccines "dramatically protect children against a number of infectious and dangerous diseases."
The bill was introduced after a measles outbreak at Disneyland in December 2014 sickened over 100 people in the U.S. and Mexico, spurring new worries about the dangers of an under-vaccinated population.
Previously, state law allowed families to opt out for personal or religions reasons, and in 2014 about 13,000 California families did so. Health officials say communities with low vaccination rates helped fuel the spread of measles over the winter.
The new state law struck down the personal belief exemption for immunizations, a move that requires nearly all public schoolchildren to be vaccinated. It also applies to private schools and day care facilities.
Under the law, children whose parents refuse vaccination can try to obtain a medical exemption or be home-schooled. Otherwise, school-age children who previously attended public schools under a personal belief exemption will need to get fully vaccinated by kindergarten and seventh grade, the state's two vaccine checkpoints.
A spokesman for the state's education department, Peter Tira, said he could not comment on pending litigation.
But he told the Los Angeles Times that the state superintendent "strongly supports the new vaccination law. We recommend that all parents vaccinate their kids. . It's the law, and it's the right thing to do."