Note: Back to school is stressful enough without the worries of compliance issues that do not match your family's needs. Curious which exemptions exist in your state? Check out www.nvic.org/law-policy-state for information. Thank you, Cathy.
By Cathy Jameson
I wrote this several years ago on another platform in response to a letter I received. Since we just got a similar notice, I thought I’d share the post here.
Late Summer 2016 - We got a reminder note from the kids' school a few weeks ago. One of our children was "due" for a booster shot. Documentation of that booster would be required prior to the start of the next school year. We were not given the "...or else!" threat that's usually added to school shot notices, but the tone of the letter certainly implied it.
I'd be lying if I said I didn't let the notice bother me much, but it did bother me.
After rereading the current law - to include the section about vaccine exemptions, I wrote an email to the school nurse. Knowing what I know about school shots (that in many states they are in fact not a requirement for school entry), I knew just how to respond to the misinformation that had been sent home with my child.
Now, I could've gone all Encyclopedia Brown citing the law word-for-word. Or I could've ripped her a new one for bullying my son into getting a vaccine he didn't need (the way the note was worded, he was so worried that he wouldn't be able to return to school in the fall without this booster). But in my email, I was kind, cordial, and very respectful. I did that not just because that's how people should be treated, but because this woman, and the staff she works with, will be the first people my child must rely on in an emergency medical situation should there be one on campus. We need a positive working relationship with the staff, not one full of animosity.
So in my email, I simply asked for clarification.
Will the exemption that we have on file with the school still be valid for the 2016-17 school year? If not, I shall provide an updated one promptly.
Then, I prayed. Oh, how I prayed.
I haven't had the best of luck with other school nurses, which was one reason why I still write about this topic every few years. Thankfully, the nurse we've been working with most recently has been more than helpful, more than knowledgeable, more than understanding, and more than accommodating. She usually stays abreast of the law, to include recognizing that parents have choices. But she failed to add that in the recent letter that came home. That's why in my email, besides an 'exercising of my parental rights' notice, it was also a gentle reminder to her: Psst. You forgot to mention one of the most important parts of the law - the exemptions!
I waited for her reply all the while praying that not mentioning exemptions was just an oversight.
In her reply to me the following day, the school nurse apologized for not including all of the information. She also assured me that the current document we had on file would suffice.
I thanked her, and since I had her attention I added, can you please consider revising the notice that was sent home to include that exemptions are also acceptable as I'm sure other families would appreciate being aware of that information. She replied that future notices would contain that information*.
We've yet to get any other vaccine-related notices this school year, but I'll be looking for a line that states that parents may certainly submit an exemption in lieu of a booster shot. I know that other parents are not so fortunate, and my heart breaks for them as I think about the stress they've encountered while trying to advocate for their rights and for their children.
It is a sad, sad day when threatening another human (forced vaccines) is the norm and when withholding a child's education based on a medical procedure (no shots...or else!) is an acceptable practice. Shame on those who think that that's okay.
Because it's not.
Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.
Curious which exemptions exist in your state? Check out https://www.nvic.org/law-policy-state for information.
*To this day, that school nurse continues to provide exemptions information to families in that school community.
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