With California’s new vaccine law now in effect, the school board on Thursday approved changes to the district’s policies and regulations for immunizations.
Senate Bill 277, which was co-authored by former SMMUSD board member Ben Allen, bans personal-belief exemptions for students in public and private schools.
But, as assistant superintendent for human services Mark Kelly and board member Craig Foster noted, the new law provides some exceptions.
Personal-belief exemptions submitted before Jan. 1 will remain valid until a student reaches kindergarten or 7th grade, whichever comes next. Students who are homeschooled and do not receive classroom-based instruction are not required to be inoculated. In addition, students with individualized education programs must be granted access to special education and other related services.
Medical exemptions approved by a licensed physician will still be honored.
“We have to make clear what [parents’] options are,” Foster said. “I know there are certain points where they have no discretion, and I know the district feels strongly that this is the right thing, but we want to make sure we’re clearly following the law and that parents know they have options available to them under the law.”
Students are required to be inoculated against measles, mumps and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; Hepatitis B; chickenpox; and Haemophilus influenza. The California Department of Public Health has the authority to designate other diseases that require immunization protection.
If a student is determined not to be properly vaccinated, the district will give the parent or guardian 10 days to provide evidence of immunization or a valid letter of exemption, according to the approved regulations. After the grace period, a student without the proper vaccines will be excluded from school and reported to the campus principal or attendance supervisor.
The district will immediately enroll homeless students, foster youth and students of military families “even if their immunization records are missing or unavailable at the time of enrollment,” according to the new policies.
SMMUSD officials have created a notice to inform parents of students with personal-belief exemptions about the new law. Faculty members will also be briefed on the law so they can answer families’ questions. Meanwhile, school nurses will meet with enrollment staffers to discuss the changes.
The school board’s approval of amended regulations came about a year after a Southern California measles outbreak. In late January 2015, a Santa Monica High School coach was diagnosed with the highly contagious virus. Less than two weeks later, more than a dozen infants at the school’s child care center were ordered quarantined after a baby who attends the center was found to have measles.
“SMMUSD is in support of this new law and has continued to encourage parents to have their students immunized regardless of their grade to best protect our entire student population and staff from preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles,” district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.