Here's the facts: While most people, including most doctors and educators, believe that vaccinations are required for school attendance, the truth is, they aren't. Each and every state in the US has laws on the books that seemingly require vaccinations in order for school attendance, this is true. However, if you read the laws, you'll see that every one of those laws includes exemptions for students who's parents choose not to vaccinate.
Now, for some states it's more difficult than others, that is true. But for all but TWO states, West Virginia and Mississippi, exemptions include "religious" reasons. And in 17 states you also have access to exemptions on "philosophical" grounds.
Medical exemptions are available in all 50 states, however, it is usually more difficult to obtain these exemptions because you generally need a doctor to sign off on it or you need to have proof of a health condition or allergy that prevents your child from being eligible for vaccination. Because of this, most parents obtain religious or philosophical exemptions.
Requirements for each of these exemptions will vary from state to state. Some states require state issued paperwork, others simply ask for a letter from the parents. A simple call to your local health department will let you know what paperwork is, or isn't, required by your state.
But don't schools remove students who don't have their vaccinations up to date by a certain point in the year? Yes, they do. You may hear all over the news every spring that local schools are removing children who are not up to date on their vaccines from class until they are up to date. Last year Pittsburgh (PA) schools barred 2100 students from attending classes due to their vaccine status. Stories like this generally seem to support the idea that if your child isn't vaccinated they can't go to school. BUT, the fact is that the students who are removed from classes are not only not up to date on their vaccines - but they also have NOT filed a proper exemption.
In Pennsylvania, where I am, there is a simple exemption paper which needs to be filled out and signed by a parent, OR parents have the option of creating their own exemption letter (view MY exemption letter) and including it in their child's records. IF a parent does not file this paperwork AND their child is unvaccinated or not up to date on their vaccinations, the schools DO have the right to remove the child from school. It is unfortunate, but the news outlets tend not to include the idea of exemptions in their stories.
So what exemptions are available where you are? Well, lets take a look...
I'm not going to tell you that getting your child into school will always be easy. Many educators and school officials are unaware and/or unsupportive of exemptions. However, the fact is this, the law is on YOUR side, not theirs! So long as you fill your state requirements for exemption a Public School can NOT disallow your child from attending classes due to vaccination status!
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