Months ago at the start of the 2015 school year, California students faced a rude awakening as they were met with scare tactics and demands to vaccinate that had no legal standing. Latino mothers launched a formal complaint after their children, belonging to the Los Angeles Unified School District, were taken out of classes the first day of school despite having a Personal Belief Exemption on file. Adding further to the confusion, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) had not updated their website in Spanish to reflect the new SB277 requirements and when they would take effect. Other reports have surfaced of California schools doing similar tactics.
As it stands today, if any school, preschool, or daycare facility does not accept a personal belief exemption for the 2015-2016 school year they are in violation of the law. Did the school nurses not get the letter from the CDPH advising them the effective date of SB277 was July 1st, 2016? Where is the leadership of Tom Torlakson, California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction and leader of the California Department of Education, advising school districts and counties what their limitations are?
The Orange County Department of Education Legal Division has recently sent around a briefing to their school superintendents, directors and nurses giving their answers to common questions about SB277. Of concern are the way special education students relying on the Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be treated under SB277.
The Orange County Department of Education’s Legal Division has officially given these marching orders to its district’s educational directors:
Our office interprets this provision as meaning that special education students must be enrolled even if they are not vaccinated, but that special education students are still required to be vaccinated and the parents of the special education students need to comply with the provisions of Senate Bill 277. The language of Senate Bill 277 does not specify any penalties or remedies if parents refuse to vaccinate their children. However, school districts may, if necessary, after advising parents in writing of the legal requirements of Senate Bill 277, contact the Orange County Health Care Agency for assistance or seek a court order ordering parents to vaccinate their children.
The language of SB277 left enforcement and vaccine noncompliance up to the school’s governing authority for each district. Orange County’s Department of Education’s Legal Division interprets that a court order to vaccinate will be an option. Will all California school districts, by way of their legal counsels, be directed to file court orders against noncomplying parents of all school children in 2016? These court orders would essentially trump the unvaccinated special needs child’s legal right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in California under the U.S. Department of Education’s requirements under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
The other option given by the Orange County Department of Education’s Legal Division for SB277 vaccine noncompliance directs school staff to “Contact the Orange County Health Care Agency for assistance.” In the real world, this means Child Protective Services (CPS) will most likely get involved. This clear assumption is backed up by the fact that the California Educators Training Module, required to be taken by all teachers and staff, requires the reporting of children to CPS due to “Medical neglect, such as not providing appropriate medical care, dental care, orimmunizations.” Yet here again, it appears that California schools are ignoring the law which says:
California Penel Code 11165.2
“A child receiving treatment by spiritual means as provided in Section 16509.1 of the Welfare and Institutions Code or not receiving specified medical treatment for religious reasons, shall not for that reason alone be considered a neglected child. An informed and appropriate medical decision made by parent or guardian after consultation with a physician or physicians who have examined the minor does not constitute neglect.”
It is essential that all California parents that believe in medical freedom file a personal belief vaccine exemption before the January 1st deadline. This is the only method known at this stage to grandfather a waiver into your child’s 2016 school year. However, SB277 isn’t set to become law until July of 2016. It is important for parents to know they do not have to sign this affidavit if they are not comfortable with the language. Parents can also write their own affidavit if they choose. California Code 120365 states:
(a) Immunization of a person shall not be required for admission to a school or other institution listed in Section120335 if the parent or guardian or adult who has assumed responsibility for his or her care and custody in the case of a minor, or the person seeking admission if an emancipated minor, files with the governing authority a letter or affidavit that documents which immunizations required by Section 120355 have been given, and which immunizations have not been given on the basis that they are contrary to his or her beliefs. (b) On and after January 1, 2014, a form prescribed by the State Department of Public Health shall accompany the letter or affidavit filed pursuant to subdivision.
The SB277 referendum is in full swing having gained over 300,000 signatures. If the referendum succeeds during its final week of signature gathering, it will effectively postpone SB277 another year. This will give parents and communities another year to continue educating others. In addition, a successful referendum will protect one more group of students entering Kindergarten and 7th grade by placing it on the November 2016 ballot. California citizens are encouraged to exercise their Constitutional rights to regress their grievances via the Peoples’ veto. Individuals and organizations who believe in medical freedom and personal liberties throughout the country are encouraged to support the SB277 referendum.
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