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Judge Upholds Policy Excluding Unvaccinated Students During Illness

Dina Check of Staten Island sued the city for denying her daughter exemption from vaccination laws. Photo credit: New York Times
Dina Check of Staten Island sued the city for denying her daughter exemption from vaccination laws. Photo credit: New York Times

A federal judge has upheld a New York City policy that bans unvaccinated students from public school when another student has a vaccine-preventable disease, the New York Times reports.

Judge William F. Kuntz II of Federal District Court in Brooklyn ruled against three families who claimed their right to free exercise of religion was violated when their children were kept out of school because of the city’s immunization policies.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs, Patricia Finn, said she will appeal the decision. 

State law requires children to receive vaccinations before attending school, unless a parent claims religious exemption or a doctor states the vaccines will hurt the child. Parents must provide a written explanation of a genuine and sincere religious objection which school officials can accept or reject.

Two of the families in the lawsuit who received religious exemptions said disallowing their children to attend school without being vaccinated is a violation of their First Amendment right to religious freedom and their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law. According to the suit, their children were kept home from school when other students had chickenpox.

Dina Check, the third plaintiff, sued saying the city rejected her religious exemption after it denied her 7-year-old daughter a medical exemption. 

The New York Times reported that New York City schools granted 3,535 religious exemptions during the 2012-13 school year, according to data from the state’s Health Department. 

According to the National Vaccine Information Center, "a state must have a "compelling State interest" before this right (religious exemption) can be taken away. One "compelling State interest" is the spread of communicable diseases. In state court cases which have set precedent on this issue, the freedom to act according to your own religious belief is subject to reasonable regulation with the justification that it must not threaten the welfare of society as a whole." 

To read the full New York Times article, please click here.

Theresa Flora June 26, 2014 at 11:49 AM
Judge is correct here. It's a no-brainer, really.
Terry P June 27, 2014 at 09:00 AM
I love how these morons' claims of freedom to practice their religion always involves putting innocent children's lives at stake. I suppose our right wing friends would call this nanny state interference, but I say thank GOD the gov't is willing to step in when a whack-job parent purposely puts their kids' lives in danger.
Laura H June 27, 2014 at 09:57 PM
These poor children. I hope that they remain healthy. I would be a nervous wreck if my child was unvaccinated.

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