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Oct 29, 2014 11:05 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuckahoe Denies Student Admission To School Based On Vaccination Record

Oct 29, 2014 11:40 AM

A local family is struggling to find a kindergarten classroom for their preschooler next year, as the child has been denied admission to the Tuckahoe School District because he has not had a chicken pox vaccine.

This week, the child’s mother—who spoke on condition of anonymity, saying she worries that talking on the record about the matter would limit her child’s options for getting into future school programs in other districts without prejudice—said she and her husband decided not to have their child inoculated with the varicella vaccine for religious reasons, and are seeking a legal exemption. In September, the district denied an exemption for the student, and a subsequent appeal to the district by the boy’s parents also was rejected.

The parents say their First Amendment rights are being denied, as is their child’s rights to a public school education.

On Wednesday morning, Tuckahoe Superintendent Chris Dyer said the decision to grant any vaccination exemption is at the discretion of the three-member Board of Education. Though he would not identify the child or address specifics of this case, citing privacy laws, Mr. Dyer said the board decided to deny the request because the board felt it did not meet the criteria for a religious exemption.

“The State of New York requires that all students have vaccinations,” Mr. Dyer said. “The law requires if they are going to register and go to school that they have those vaccinations. This parent came in and presented their case to the board, but the board decided not to grant the exception, and it was denied.”

According to the State Department of Health, a student can be exempted from vaccination requirements if a parent or guardian is religiously opposed to it. “A student may be exempt from vaccination if, in the opinion of the institution, that student or student’s parents or guardian of those less than 18 years old holds genuine and sincere religious beliefs which are contrary to the practice of immunization,” the Department of Health website says. “The student requesting exemption may or may not be a member of an established religious organization.”

The website goes on to explain that the school may require supporting documents for the religious exemption, and that in the case of an outbreak at the school, the student should be excluded from certain classes.

The family has lived in the Tuckahoe community since December 2005 so that their two children could attend the Tuckahoe School and, according to the mother, are practicing Christians. They attend the Community Bible Church, a Calvary Chapel Fellowship that focuses on teaching the writing of the Bible and building personal relationship with God and Jesus.

According to the mother, after doing extensive research into the medicine behind vaccinations and specific passages of the Bible, she decided that her children would not be getting the varicella vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms contains human embryonic lung cultures and human diploid cell cultures, as well as guinea pig embryonic cell cultures.

“The chicken pox vaccine is not necessary—they will be fine without it,” the mother of two said. “It is unnecessary, and I don’t want to inject guinea pig cells into my child to prevent something I would rather they just have so they can build up their natural immunity. I prefer they have a stronger immune system through a natural immunity.”

According to the woman, her son does have all of his other vaccinations up to date, and she followed strict protocol for filing for a religious exemption, including providing a letter from her physician and her church.

The more recent denial by the school district—in which the boy did attend prekindergarten classes for several days during the appeal process—was issued on October 14, when the board voted against admitting him back to school on the grounds, according to the mother, that the religious appeal did not seem genuine.

She said she wrote her letter based on a template she found online because she had never filed such an application before and did not know how to proceed.

“I cannot believe they had the audacity to say that I was not genuine,” she said. “They did not say anything to me except for those few comments they made. I asked them to elaborate, I asked them to explain, and they have not replied.”

According to Mr. Dyer, the family now has the right to appeal the school district’s decision with the State Education Commissioner’s office, a move that the woman says she cannot afford. Currently, her son is enrolled in a private preschool program several days a week, and she is weighing her options for the future.

“I did everything according to the way it needed to be done in order for a religious exemption to be honored,” she said. “They should be looking at my letter to the district and my beliefs, and I feel that I was completely disregarded. That is a complete violation of my rights.

“This is a community ostracizing a long-standing community member because of one person’s point of view, which is not legally what is right,” she continued. “I understand that with Ebola and enterovirus around they feel threatened, but that is not the issue here. The issue is that I do have religious beliefs, and I feel I am pro-life, and my faith is going to save me, not a vaccination. Vaccination and Christianity are contradictory to each other, and I cannot subscribe to two different ways of life.”

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Bravo to the school district and state for keeping our communities safe from these fundamentalist simpletons who believe their faith will keep their children safe from childhood diseases that have historically killed or crippled millions.
Basing medical decisions on faith is wrongheaded and backward thinking. Studies have proven without any doubt, that vaccinations are completely safe and they work. If Ms. Dyer chooses to ignore science and endanger her children, that does not give her the ...more
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Oct 31, 14 10:04 AM
1 member liked this comment
She doesn't believe her faith will keep him from getting chicken pox, she believes its perfectly fine for him to get chicken pox and build a natural immunity. Don't sensationalize.

Choosing not to vaccinate your children for other diseases with the idea that faith will protect them is dangerous, but this is not the same.
By det7408 (7), Bridgehampton on Oct 31, 14 11:55 AM
Did you read her quote?

"The issue is that I do have religious beliefs, and I feel I am pro-life, and my faith is going to save me, not a vaccination. Vaccination and Christianity are contradictory to each other, and I cannot subscribe to two different ways of life.”

Should she let them get Polio and TB as well?
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Oct 31, 14 5:02 PM
2 members liked this comment
Vaccinations are imperative. Maybe not 4 or 5 in a single sitting, but all kids should be vaccinated. Great job, Tuckahoe.
By beachbme11978 (78), Westhampton Beach on Oct 31, 14 10:12 AM
1 member liked this comment
I have worked in health care for over 20 years, there is no need to give a child a vaccine for the chicken pox. Your child should get it naturally and build up a natural immune system. This is only the pharmacutical companies trying to make MORE MONEY!!! The pharmacutical companies pushed the hbv vaccine and now it is messing up the immune system of the children who have gotten it. I applude these parents. There is no reason to get the disease naturally. You certainly wont die from the chicken ...more
By J. Totta (106), Sag Harbor on Oct 31, 14 2:01 PM
I liked this by accident. I completely disagree with you...in 1995 before the varicella vaccine was available, 100 healthy people died from chickenpox in the US and over 11,000 were hospitalized. Having the vaccination as a child also reduces the chance of getting shingles later in life.
By Arnold Timer (327), Sag Harbor on Oct 31, 14 5:06 PM
2 members liked this comment
Our country, our rules. it's not about her kid, it's about OUR kids.
By nazznazz (276), east hampton on Oct 31, 14 2:09 PM
Question: do we have the vaccination records of the undocumented children in our east end schools? If they can't ask about their immigration status how they mandate their medical records?
Do you feel as strongly about that?
By jams (129), hampton bays on Nov 1, 14 4:12 PM
2 members liked this comment
Of course its possible to have a bad response to a vaccine. The fact is that vaccines have saved millions of lives, and stopped certain diseases like polio almost completely. We should be more worried with the crap they put in our food.
By chief1 (2800), southampton on Nov 2, 14 9:33 AM
3 members liked this comment
A good question is why the rate of precocious puberty is rising. There are studies which are linking it to hormone infused milk and meat. There are also various chemicals in our environment (on an evolutionary scale), endocrine disruptors from plastics, and even types of steroids.

Better living through modern chemistry...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Nov 2, 14 9:59 AM
1 member liked this comment