Seattle Schools Prohibit Unvaccinated Students From Returning to School

By Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen
Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.
December 31, 2019Updated: December 31, 2019

Thousands of school students in Seattle have been warned by the city’s public schools that they will not be allowed to attend school after Christmas break unless they get in compliance with Washington’s new vaccine laws.

Seattle Public Schools posted a notice on Dec. 20 telling parents that their children must meet a Jan. 8 deadline to ensure student records reflect “updated immunization status,” otherwise students “cannot attend school.”

The district said it would be providing free immunizations at clinics over the Christmas break to help students get their health records up to date. It added that students will not be allowed to return to school “until the required information is provided to the school nurse.”

“Once immunization compliance is achieved, they may return to school,” the notice reads.

Children who miss days of school to receive their vaccinations will have their absences recorded as unexcused, and this will only be reversed once the student returns to school with immunization compliance, it states.

The notice cited Washington state law and details of a bill recently passed in the state that got rid of the “personal” or “philosophical” exemption for the MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccine after two measles outbreaks sickened 87 people and sent the state into a state of emergency.

At present, only “medical” and “religious” exemptions are permitted in the state.

According to the state law, school districts were supposed to start excluding students out of compliance 30 days after school started this fall. The Seattle Public Schools district has 53,627 students, according to its website, and an estimated 2,000 students’ records are out of compliance, reported USA Today.

The Epoch Times reached out to Seattle Public Schools for comment, but did not immediately hear back.

District spokesman Tim Robinson told KOMO News that students who do not comply must be excluded from school according to Washington state law, which states that the chief administrator of every public school, private school, and day care center has a duty to prohibit “students who either don’t have up-to-date immunization records or can’t provide an approved immunization schedule or certificate of exemption.

“They would be excluded here, they would be excluded at any school district, and we certainly want to avoid that. I know all schools want to avoid it because you don’t want students to miss any school time,” Robinson said.

The news comes as the number of measles cases nationwide tripled in the past year, with 375 cases reported between Jan. 1 and Dec. 5, 2018, compared with 1,276 of confirmed measles cases across 31 states in the same time period this year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

Washington’s 87 cases, meanwhile, was the highest reported in the state in the space of a year since 1990, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Parents’ Concerns

When New York lawmakers in June revoked a religious exemption for mandatory school vaccinations, some parents who oppose vaccinations chose to pull their children from school rather than comply.

“Those that are choosing to vaccinate, it’s not because their beliefs have changed,” said Jina Gentry, a Buffalo mother of four who will home-school her children rather than have them vaccinated. She said not everyone has the means or time to do the same.

At the time, New York became the fourth state, along with California, Mississippi, and West Virginia, to eliminate religious and personal-belief exemptions for vaccines. Maine will remove them in 2021. All states allow medical exemptions.

A Maryland mother-of-two, Brenda Brown, told The Epoch Times she chose not to vaccinate her daughter, now 15, after her fully vaccinated son, 19, was diagnosed with autism.

“I didn’t want to risk it,” she said, adding that her daughter now chooses herself not receive vaccinations.

“We’re fortunate that we can pull her out and do online homeschooling,” Brown said. “There’s enough homeschooling resources, even some sports teams, that she would still socialize.”

“She’s honestly my healthiest child and is as healthy or healthier than her classmates,” she added. “I’ve given my daughter the option to get vaccines, she’s said no so far. My husband travels and there have been polio outbreaks, so if that becomes a pressing issue, I might insist.”

Concerns that autism spectrum disorder (ASD) might be linked to vaccines given to children have been discarded by a number of CDC studies.

Meanwhile, Rob Gorski, an Ohio father of three children with autism, told The Epoch Times he believes the move to require students in Seattle to comply with Washington’s vaccine laws before returning to school will protect the vulnerable.

“We have diseases like measles back in epidemic proportions. These are serious diseases that can and do cause death in those most vulnerable,” the 41-year-old said, adding that all of his children have been vaccinated.

Gorski added that his eldest son has a compromised immune system, and his fragile health makes him vulnerable.

“He has Common Variable Immunodeficiency and must receive IVIG infusions twice a week. IVIG is basically donor antibodies that provide him with a temporary immune system,” Gorski added.

“Vaccines not only help to protect the person receiving it but also people like my son, those fighting cancer, living with HIV or anything else that compromises the immune system,” he continued.

“The very old and very young are also vulnerable as well. Herd immunity matters and as a society, we must not only protect ourselves and our loved ones but also those who are unable to protect themselves.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Isabel van Brugen is an award-winning journalist. She holds a master's in newspaper journalism from City, University of London.