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.
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constitutional law, court case, Education, federal court, New York City, religion, school policy, vaccinations, Vaccines | Categories:
Child Health, Education, Must Read, Safety
Friday, March 28th, 2014
According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, a Minnesota school has agreed to pay student Riley Stratton $70,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from an incident where school administrators forced her to give up her Facebook login information. The administrators then perused her Facebook page against her will. More from Newser.com:
It began when Riley Stratton, then 13, posted on Facebook complaining that a hall monitor was mean, and the school responded by giving her an in-school suspension. “They punished her for doing exactly what kids have done for 100 years—complaining to her friends about teachers and administrators,” Riley’s ACLU lawyer says.
Matters intensified when a parent complained that Riley was chatting about sex with her son. This time the school forced Riley to enter her Facebook password in front of a sheriff’s deputy, and perused her page in front of her. “I was in tears,” says Riley, now 15. “I was embarrassed when they made me give over my password.” Superintendent Greg Schmidt tells Fox News that the school thought it had permission from Riley’s parents, but her mother says she was never informed. “I’m hoping schools kind of leave these things alone, so parents can punish their own kids for things that happen off school grounds,” she says.
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Tuesday, March 25th, 2014
Kameryn Renfro, a third grader at Caprock Academy in Grand Junction, Colo., was not allowed to go to school yesterday after she shaved her head to support her friend who is fighting cancer. According to Kameryn’s family, her shaved head is a violation of her school’s dress code. More from Newser.com:
Kamryn Renfro shaved her head because, she says, “it felt like the right thing to do” to support a friend who is fighting cancer—but the compassionate gesture got Kamryn kicked out of school, 9 News reports. Kamryn, a third-grader, wasn’t allowed to return to Caprock Academy in Grand Junction, Colo., yesterday because her shaved head violates the school’s dress code, Kamryn’s family says. “It makes me sad because she was really happy to go back to school and show people what she did,” says the mom of Kamryn’s friend, 11-year-old Delaney Clements, who lost her hair while undergoing chemotherapy to fight neuroblastoma.
Delaney says she appreciated her friend’s gesture: “It made me feel very special and that I’m not alone.” But Caprock Academy says, in a statement, that its policy intends to “promote safety, uniformity, and a non-distracting environment for the school’s students,” and that as such, shaved heads are not allowed. But the school will reportedly allow Kamryn to attend today, and NBC 11 reports that the school’s Board of Directors is holding a special meeting tonight to address the situation and potentially make an exception to the dress code for Kamryn.
Update: The Caprock Academy board of directors voted on March 25 to let Kamryn Renfro stay at the school, ABC News reported. The vote was 3-1.
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