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Student Project: Compulsory Vaccination Law In New York State: Seminal Case Law
Compulsory Vaccination Laws in New York With an Emphasis on Provisions for Minors and School Admissions
Any person who refuses a vaccination may be quarantined and held in quarantine until they consent to a vaccination. The power to enforce this is based upon the public health need to guard against the introduction of contagious and infectious diseases by the exercise of proper and vigilant medical inspection for any communicate contagion.
The constitution requires the legislature to provide for the maintenance and support of a system of free common schools, wherein all the children of the state may be educated. The Public Health Law provides that no child or person not vaccinated shall be admitted or received into any of the public schools of the state, and the trustees or other officers having the charge, management or control of such schools shall cause this provision of law to be enforced. They may adopt a resolution excluding such children and persons not vaccinated from such school until vaccinated. The same law provides for the free vaccination of children of suitable age who wish to attend the public schools, provided their parents or guardians are unable to procure vaccination for them
Post-Jacobson v. Massachusetts Decisions (1914-1989)
The law requiring vaccination of children in the public schools is a proper one. A parent may not escape his duties under the New York Education Law by pleading simple unwillingness to have his child attend the public schools subject to the condition of vaccination.
The children who come into the world are entitled to protection, even though the parent has ideas or notions of principles contrary to the needs of the entire community. Therefore, a child must be vaccinated, even though vaccination is contrary to the religious principles of its parents.
An infringement of a parents religious liberty does not necessarily mean that constitutional rights have been violated. Parents religious convictions must yield to the public interest in compulsory education laws, which are universally enacted for the benefit of the country's children. A parents religious convictions can not interfere with the responsibility of the State to protect children's welfare.
New York Public Health §2164 is a valid exercise of the police power of state to enact a compulsory immunization law against poliomyelitis to which a child must conform for admittance to school and is not restricted to pre-school children.
If there is genuineness and sincerity of parent's religious beliefs and an absence of circumstances which, in opinion of public health authorities, would represent clear and present danger of particular communicable disease, a parent is entitled to exemption contained in Public Health Law relieving them of obligation to obtain immunizations for their child.
A religious exemption from immunization to children whose parents or guardians are bona fide members of recognized religious organization, and whose doctrines oppose such vaccinations, is violative of both establishment and free exercise clauses of First Amendment to United States Constitution.
Equal protection was not violated by school district's treatment of parents' application for religious exemption for their daughter from vaccination requirement in absence of any evidence that their application was subjected to greater scrutiny than application of members of organized religion.
A parents sincere belief that immunization is unnecessary and contrary to “genetic blueprint” is not enough if that belief is simply the embodiment of secular chiropractic ethics, rather than religious belief, for purposes of New York Public Health Law requiring that children be immunized against certain communicable diseases before being allowed to enroll in school unless immunization conflicts with religious belief.
School district is enjoined preliminarily from barring minor children from school due to their lack of receipt of immunizations, where parents feel they are members of Jewish faith but also interpret Torah and Bible to indicate that inoculations are clear defilement of body in direct violation of laws of God, because CLS Pub Health Law § 2164(9) provides exemption to those persons who oppose immunization on religious grounds, and parents’ evidence and cogent argument are likely to succeed in proving that their beliefs opposing immunization are both “religious” and “sincerely held.
A failure to inoculate a child, especially during the height of an epidemic, may classify as neglect within the meaning of the N.Y. Fam. Ct. Act § 1012 (f). A court may decline to order an inoculation in the absence of an outbreak or epidemic.
Procedure followed by school district in examining request that child be admitted to school without immunizations required by CLS Pub Health § 2164 was not arbitrary or capricious where (1) parents submitted letter from physician who stated that immunizations were medically contraindicated, (2) school district referred matter to its chief medical officer, (3) chief medical officer spoke with physician and determined that he specialized in area not recognized by board of regents, and (4) chief medical officer undertook review of relevant medical literature and spoke with medical experts in field.
Families qualify for religious exemptions to mandatory immunization pursuant to Public Health Law § 2164(9), where it is demonstrated that the opposition to vaccination was genuine and sincere, and rooted in a religious belief that the administering of man-made medicines to cure illness and disease was forbidden by their religion.
Parents of minor unvaccinated children brought action against state officials, city, and city department of education, challenging constitutionality of state's statutory vaccination requirement and a state regulation allowing unvaccinated children to be excluded from public school based on outbreak of vaccine-preventable disease. The Court of Appeals held that: 1 vaccination statute does not violate substantive due process; 2 vaccination statute does not violate Free Exercise Clause; and 3 parents failed to state an equal protection claim.
Pub Health § 2164(3) did not violate Establishment Clause, in that statute promoted no particular religious point of view, did not have primary effect of advancing or inhibiting religion, and did not require state to assess validity of students’ religious beliefs.