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School policy banning unvaccinated students during infection risk is upheld by federal judge

Posted Jun 24, 2014 11:47 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A federal judge in Brooklyn has upheld a New York City policy that bans unvaccinated students from public school when a classmate has a vaccine-preventable disease.

U.S. District Judge William Kuntz ruled this month against three parents who claimed their federal constitutional right to free exercise of religion was violated by the policy, report the New York Times and the Brooklyn Eagle. A lawyer for the parents, Patricia Finn, says she will appeal.

New York State requires parents to vaccinate their children before attending school, but allows exemptions for parents who express a “genuine and sincere” religious objection. Parents who obtain a religious exemption must still keep their child out of class when a classmate has a vaccine-preventable disease, according to New York City regulations.

Kuntz granted a motion to dismiss the federal claims, citing a 1905 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that “strongly suggested” religious objectors are not constitutionally exempt from vaccination requirements. Kuntz said the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and federal judges in New York have also ruled against vaccination challenges.

Kuntz refused to exercise jurisdiction over the parents' remaining state claims and dismissed those as well.

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