For parents hoping to avoid California’s strict vaccination laws for school children, homeschooling their children may soon be their only option.
California’s new vaccine law, SB 277, requires all children enrolled in public or private schools and daycares to be vaccinated for chicken pox, whooping cough, polio, Hepatitis B and more. Students who are homeschooled are not subject to the law.
Effective July 1, 2016, families will no longer be given immunization exemptions for personal or religious beliefs. Exemptions submitted before Jan. 1, 2016 will be valid until the student reaches the next grade span.
Each grade span is defined as birth to preschool, kindergarten through 6th grade, and 7th through 12th grades. However, a student cannot be admitted or advance to the 7th grade without the proper immunizations despite personal beliefs or past immunization exemptions.
Medical exemptions are available if a physician deems it unsafe for the child to be vaccinated. But if there is cause to believe that the child has been exposed or is developing one of the diseases listed, they can be temporarily removed from school until a health official believes the child can no longer transmit or develop the disease.
Vaccines: Loud Arguments For and Against
Protestors are calling the bill unconstitutional for taking away a parents right to decide what they believe is best for their child.
State Sen. Richard Pan said he co-authored the bill because he wanted to protect children.
“This legislation also empowers parents by requiring parents to be notified of the vaccination rates at their child’s school with the minimum rate necessary to protect their child from a disease outbreak,” Pan said at a news conference.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill a day after it was presented to him. Some protestors felt that he signed the bill too quickly without proper consideration.
“After carefully reviewing the materials and arguments that have been presented, I have decided to sign this bill,” Brown said in letter to the Senate. “While it’s true that no medical intervention is without risk, the evidence shows that immunization powerfully benefits and protects the community.”
Protestors started an online petition to stop SB 277. After 5 months, it has over 8,000 supporters.
“This is clearly an attack on parent’s rights to choose whether or not to submit their child to a medical procedure with inherent risks,” the petition states. “SB277 also removes the language requiring the doctor to educate the patient of the benefits and the risks of the vaccine.”
Protestors opposed to vaccinating their children may begin to homeschool to avoid the law. But homeschooling advocates worry that the vaccination requirements may be extended to their children.
The California Homeschool Network has stated their strong opposition to SB 277 because of “the serious threat this legislation has on parental rights.”
The organization has partnered with the Home School Legal Defense Association, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the Homeschool Association of California and the Family Protection Ministries of California to try to oppose the bill.
But at least one homeschooling organization—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education—believes in adding homeschooled children to the law.
“It is irresponsible to exempt homeschooled children from medical requirements designed to protect children’s health,” said Executive Director Rachel Coleman in the organization’s statement. “Creating a system where parents can homeschool to evade medical requirements, rather than because they believe homeschooling promotes their children’s educational or social well-being, does children a disservice. Homeschooling is a serious commitment.”
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California Senate President Kevin de León holds Joshua Fulmer, 3 months, as he congratulates Sens. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, center, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, right, after their bill requiring nearly all California school children to be vaccinated was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on June 30 in Sacramento, Calif. --Rich Pedroncelli/AP
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.