PRIVATE AND PAROCHIAL SCHOOLS NOT REQUIRED TO ADMIT UNVACCINATED STUDENT
ATTORNEY GENERAL BRIAN FROSH ISSUES LEGAL ADVICE,
AT REQUEST OF DELEGATES HETTLEMAN AND ROSENBERG
A private or parochial school is not required to admit “an unvaccinated student simply because the student asserts a religious exemption,” according to the Office of Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh.
This legal advice, in a letter to Delegates Shelly Hettleman and Samuel Rosenberg, addresses concerns raised by the Orthodox Jewish day schools in the metropolitan Baltimore area.
“If the State were to require non-public religious schools to accept the religious exemption claimed by a parent of a child who is not vaccinated, the State would be requiring the religious school to go against its own religious convictions,” declared Hillel Tendler an attorney for the religious schools. “A parent’s religiously based anti-vaccination views should not be forced on a non-public religious school which does not share those beliefs.”
The Attorney General’s Office agreed, writing that the General Assembly did not intend that non-public schools be included in the requirement that schools allow an unvaccinated child to be admitted if the child’s parent or guardian claims a “religious exemption” to vaccinations. Furthermore, the letter states, if a parochial school would be required to accommodate a religious belief and practice in conflict with its own, there is a risk that a court would find that to be in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.
“This is a very important health issue for the students, parents, teachers, and administrators in our schools,” stated Rabbi Ariel Sadwin, Annapolis representative for Agudath Israel of Maryland - Mid-Atlantic Region. “Delegates Hettleman and Rosenberg understood the gravity of the concerns expressed by the schools and enabled them to convey those concerns directly to the Attorney General’s Office.”
“Allowing an unvaccinated student to come to school poses a very serious health risk to everyone else in the school building and their families as well,” stated Delegates Hettleman and Rosenberg. “We were glad to assist in making the case to Attorney General Brian Frosh that the existing policy should be reversed for private and parochial schools.”