Warwick Valley School Board: No more religious exemptions for vaccines according to new state law

WARWICK. Only medical exemptions will be granted .

Aug 29 2019 | 10:43 AM

    Students enrolled (or planning to be enrolled) in the Warwick Valley School District for the 2019-20 school year must be up-to-date on their shots:

    The only exceptions will be given for legitimate, documented medical reasons, according to a written statement from the Board of Education and Superintendent of Schools Dr. David Leach.

    Addressing the school board at its regular monthly meeting on Monday night was David Shaw, attorney and partner with the firm of Shaw, Perelson, May and Lambert of Poughkeepsie and Valhalla.

    Following the law passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo on June 13, (with emergency amendments to NYS Department of Health regulations at Subpart 66-1, regarding medical exemptions, passed on Aug. 16), students will no longer be excused from vaccination for religious or philosophical reasons.

    Schools covered under this legislation include: New York public schools; BOCES; charter schools; parochial and private schools and day care settings.

    Un-vaccinated children, Shaw added, will be “excluded” from riding the school bus.

    According to NY State Public Health Law 2164 and regulations of the Commissioner of Health at Section 66-1.3, students who have a bona fide medical inability to be vaccinated must have their parents or guardians submit a NYSDOH form from their physician stating that “vaccination(s) would be detrimental to the health of the child” – and this form must be submitted annually.

    Also, “the principal or person in charge of the school may require additional information supporting the exemption.”

    Fines: from $2,000 to $10,000 per case

    Shaw said that the law is “quite absolute” and that doctors who fraudulently fill out such a form – or districts that violate the law – would be subject to a $2,000 fine for the first violation. Subsequent violations within a 12 month period “may carry fines up to $5,000 per occurrence, if the violations presented a serious health and safety threat to an individual(s), and if any such violation(s) directly result in physical harm to an individual(s) the penalties may be increased to as much as ten thousand dollars ($10,000),” according to the law quoted in the district’s statement.

    “Options

    Compulsory education age students (i.e., children between the ages of six and 16 – or 17 in school districts that have raised the compulsory age)” who do not satisfy the immunization requirements will have only the following options:

    Attend school in a state without mandatory vaccination requirements, or be homeschooled.

    Also, from the district’s statement: “Homeschooled students with disabilities may be entitled to special education services upon written request made by June 1 of any school year.

    The most recent (Aug. 16) Joint Guidance document issued by the New York State Education Department encouraged school districts to honor dual enrollment special education service requests made after the June 1 deadline for the 2019-20 school year where students are being newly homeschooled due to the repeal of the religious immunization exemption and school immunization exclusion.

    Students not-yet vaccinated have a 14-day grace period from the first day of school to be up on their shots; transferring students from out of the district or outside the US have a 30-day window to be current on their immunizations.

    Shaw reminded the board that – since they swore an oath to uphold the state constitution – they are “duty-bound” to uphold the law. Board members, he added, also have “a fiduciary responsibility” to uphold the law, to protect the district from penalties of non-compliance.

    Reaction

    Brian Endrikat, a WV district parent and resident of both Pine Island and Greenwood Lake, was not happy about the new law requiring students to be immunized. He said he specifically moved to the home he’s currently in so that his son could attend the high school.Given the change in the law, Endrikat said that he would now have to home-school his son. “Are you going to throw him to the curb?”Endrikat demanded to know what resources the BOE would provide, now that his son would no longer be able to attend school, since he gave his son the “choice” of getting vaccinated.“How are you going to help the kids, help the families (of un-vaccinated children)?”“He’s 14, a year away from making Eagle Scout (and) can’t go to Scout Camp” because of the new law.“He can’t wrestle (anymore): he used to be on the team.” Endrikat worried that his son would no longer be able to see his school friends.“They (the NYS Assembly) made an agreement” that he doesn’t support.Endrikat said he felt that un-vaccinated kids like his would be treated “worse than those arrested” at school for dangerous behavior.

    Other business

    The school board acknowledged receipt of $20,000 in NY State Bullet Aid, provided through the efforts of state Sen. Jen Metzger; the funds will be earmarked for program support in the district.

    The BOE also accepted a $500 grant from Walmart, which will be used for floor decals in Sanfordville Elementary’s hallways sensory path.

    The administration also updated its Code of Conduct to include policy changes covering: keeping students from accessing firearms and circumstances permitting the arrest of disabled/Special Education students when they prove to be a danger to themselves or others.

    The board gave its assent to establish the tax rate for the coming year.

    Next: Monday, Sept. 16, regular school board meting beginning at 7 p.m. at the Dorothy C. Wilson Education Center .