Posts Tagged ‘ constitutional law ’

Judge: Unvaccinated Kids Can Be Barred from School During Illnesses

Tuesday, June 24th, 2014

A New York City policy allowing schools to prohibit unvaccinated kids from attending school when there are reported cases of vaccine-preventable diseases has been upheld by a federal judge, despite the claims by three families that the policy violates their constitutional right to make medical decisions based on religious beliefs.  The New York Times reports:

Citing a 109-year-old Supreme Court ruling that gives states broad power in public health matters, Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed that their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept from school, sometimes for a month at a time, because of the city’s immunization policies.

The Supreme Court, Judge Kuntz wrote in his ruling, has “strongly suggested that religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccinations.”

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Patricia Finn, said she plans to appeal the decision, announced this month. On Thursday, Ms. Finn asked the district court to rehear the case.

Amid concerns by public health officials that some diseases are experiencing a resurgence in areas with low vaccination rates, the decision reinforces efforts by the city to balance a strict vaccine mandate with limited exemptions for objectors. Pockets of vaccination refusal persist in the city, despite high levels of vaccination overall.

State law requires children to receive vaccinations before attending school, unless a parent can show religious reservations or a doctor can attest that vaccines will harm the child. Under state law, parents claiming religious exemptions do not have to prove their faith opposes vaccines, but they must provide a written explanation of a “genuine and sincere” religious objection, which school officials can accept or reject.

Some states also let parents claim a philosophical exemption, though New York does not. Some parents refuse to have their children vaccinated because of a belief that vaccines can cause autism, though no link has ever been proved.

Two of the families in the lawsuit who had received religious exemptions challenged the city’s policy on barring their children, saying it amounted to a violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom and their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law, among other claims. Their children had been kept from school when other students had chickenpox, their suit said.

The third plaintiff, Dina Check, sued on somewhat different grounds, saying that the city had improperly denied her 7-year-old daughter a religious exemption. She said the city rejected her religious exemption after it had denied her a medical exemption, sowing doubts among administrators about the authenticity of her religious opposition. But Ms. Check said the request for a medical exemption had been mistakenly submitted by a school nurse without her consent.

Flu Vaccine Tips with Tia Mowry
Flu Vaccine Tips with Tia Mowry
Flu Vaccine Tips with Tia Mowry

Image: School lockers, via Shutterstock

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School’s Pregnancy Test Policy Under Legal Review

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

In the wake of a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), a state-funded charter school in Louisiana has asked lawyers to review its policy of requiring female students to take a pregnancy test if they are suspected of being pregnant, Today.com reports:

The policy, which dates at least to 2006, covers the approximately 700 students who are accepted into the state-funded Delhi Charter School in Delhi, La.

“There have never been any complaints from students or parents about the school policy,” Chris Broussard, the school’s teacher-director for grades 6-12, told TODAY.com. “However, in light of the recent inquiry, the current policy has been forwarded to the law firm of Davenport, Files & Kelly … to ensure that necessary revisions are made so that our school is in full compliance with constitutional law.”

The law firm did not return a call to TODAY.com.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana sent the school a letter on Monday, saying that the policy violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution, and threatening legal action if it is not revised immediately.

“The policy discriminates against female students not just for being pregnant but even for the possibility that they might be pregnant, and treats them as though pregnancy was some kind of contagious disease by telling them they can’t stay in school,” Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, told TODAY.com. “That is a gross violation of the law and their right to have an education.”

Image: Pregnancy test, via Shutterstock

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