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Court Ruling: Parents Can’t Send Unvaccinated Kids To School

To vaccinate, or not to vaccinate, that is the question.

Whether parents choose to vaccinate or not is always a hot topic because many parents have a strong opinion one way or the other. GEM has covered the subject before, which you can read in the “Related” links below, but let’s revisit it.

A Brooklyn Federal District Court judge recently upheld a New York City policy that bars unimmunized children from public school when another student has a vaccine-preventable disease. The court ruled that a parent’s constitutional right to freely exercise their religions does not always make their children exempt from vaccination requirements. The ruling is in response to three families who filed suit against the city, claiming 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 plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling. This is just one of several similar suits filed across the country. Given that all states except West Virginia and Mississippi allow religious exemptions for vaccine requirements, the ruling will likely be tested at higher levels before it becomes policy. Expect to hear more on this subject in the coming months and years.

Related: Our Story Begins: Tackling The Vaccination Consternation

Every parent needs to do his or her own research about vaccines and make the choice that is best for their families. There are risks associated with receiving certain vaccines—like the one for chicken pox—just as there are risks of not receiving them. There are some parents who refuse to listen to the science that there is no proven link between autism and vaccinations, but I have no doubt that many parents who choose not to vaccinate their kids go into it with a lot of thought and research and they agonize over the pros and cons of their decision. It’s not easy to go against what it seems like everybody else is doing.

Having said that, parents who choose not to vaccinate should expect that most public entities, like schools, can and do refuse to enroll their children or will stop them from attending school if they aren’t vaccinated and another child has a vaccine-preventable disease. Even in a free country like this one where we have rights, we don’t have an unlimited right to do things that could potentially put others at risk, especially where public health is concerned. If parents don’t want to vaccinate their kids, fine, but then they have to expect roadblocks to receiving a public education. Those parents should be prepared to send their kids to a private school that doesn’t have vaccination requirements or to homeschool them.

Related: Guest Posting: Hear Me Out! Why I Am NOT Following The Prescribed Vaccination Schedule

What’s your take on this? Do you think the parents of unvaccinated children have the right to send their kids to public school, no matter what? Share your thoughts below.