Repealed or Denied Vaccine Exemptions May Warrant the Filing of a Complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

Posted: 7/29/2019 4:59:58 PM | with 0 comments

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This document includes the following:1

  • A guide to filing a discrimination complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) division of the U.S. Department of Education under Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
  • A list of sanctions OCR can impose on out of compliance federally funded institutions.
  • An analysis of potential violations of Section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 arising from the exclusion of students with disabilities from school due to their vaccination status.

Filing a Discrimination Complaint with the U.S. Department of Education

Who:  A person with disabilities who is denied rights under the Act, or a person acting on their behalf, may file a complaint through OCR. legal representation is not necessary to file a complaint. A lawsuit may be filed to enforce rights independent of the OCR complaint process.

When: A complaint must be filed within 180 days of the last act of discrimination. If more time has elapsed, the complainant may file a waiver.

Procedure: A complainant may file a complaint following the grievance policy of the individual institution prior to filing a complaint with OCR, but this is not required. The complaint with OCR must be filed within 60 days after the internal grievance is filed. 

How to file:

New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands 
Office for Civil Rights,
New York Office
U. S. Department of Education
32 Old Slip, 26th Floor
New York, NY 10005-2500
Telephone: (646) 428-3800
Facsimile: (646) 428-3843
Email: OCR.NewYork@ed.gov

Complaint Form: You may use OCR’s Discrimination Complaint Form or write your own letter including:

  • “The complainant’s name, address and, if possible (although not required), a telephone number where the complainant may be reached during business hours;
  • Information about the person(s) or class of persons injured by the alleged discriminatory act(s) (names of the injured person(s) are not required);
  • The name and location (city and state) of the institution that committed the alleged discriminatory act(s); and
  • A description of the alleged discriminatory act(s) in sufficient detail to enable OCR to understand what occurred, when it occurred, and the basis for the alleged discrimination.” 2

OCR Can Impose Sanctions on out of Compliance Federally Funded Institutions

In the event that it is determined that a school district is not complying with the Act, OCR will attempt to negotiate corrective action from the school district. However, should negotiation fail to initiate corrective action, OCR may take enforcement action including,

“(1) initiate administrative proceedings to terminate Department of Education financial assistance to the recipient; or (2) refer the case to the Department of Justice for judicial proceedings.” 3

Students with Disabilities Rights under Section 504

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (the Act) was enacted to secure equal access to public education for students with disabilities. Students with disabilities are guaranteed equal access to free appropriate public education (FAPE) and services in all programs that receive federal financial assistance. 4

Students with disabilities have the right to receive other “education services designed to meet the individual education needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.” 5

When a student is evaluated and a determination is made that he/she has a disability protected under the Act, a 504 plan is developed and services that would benefit the student are identified and provided. These services are deemed necessary for the student to be able to receive FAPE on par with a student without a disability. Therefore, when students with disabilities are denied access to these services, they are denied FAPE.  Requiring parents to home school is not an adequate alternative because while home schooling could be deemed an appropriate education, it does not meet students with disabilities needs in order to be able to receive FAPE when additional services are not provided.

The Act, designed to prevent discrimination against people with disabilities, provides procedural safeguards that a federally funded institution (hereinafter referred to as school) must follow in order to assure that all students have access to FAPE.

When a student with a disability is unable to get services as provided for in his/her 504 plan because he/she is repeatedly sent home early from school, for example, due to a behavioral problem, a complaint can be made that a violation of the Act has occurred. 6  If the student is not in school, he/she is not able to receive services provided for under his/her 504 plan. It follows then, that when students with disabilities are denied services under their 504 plans because they are shut out of school due to their vaccination status, that they are being denied their rights under the Act.

On the other hand, an argument can be made that the Act grants students with disabilities equal and not greater access to FAPE than students without disabilities. Accordingly, if all unvaccinated students, regardless of their disability status, are denied access to FAPE, then it is not discriminatory to deny students with disabilities FAPE which may also include educational services. However, the Act was created to protect the rights of students with disabilities and provides safeguards to protect their interests with regard to access to FAPE. Students without disabilities are not covered under the Act. Accordingly, students with disabilities require greater protection under the law in order to have the opportunity to have access to FAPE.

The Act sets forth,

“A school district must conduct or arrange for an individual evaluation at no cost to the parents before any action is taken with respect to the initial placement of a child who has a disability, or before any significant change in that placement.” 7

Denying student’s entrance to school due to their vaccination status would likely be considered action that results in a significant change in placement for students with disabilities because they are potentially kept out of school for a significant period of time. OCR considers an exclusion from the educational program of more than 10 consecutive school days to be a significant change in placement. 8

The Act provides that a student with disabilities must be evaluated and a 504 plan set in place. The needs of each individual student with disabilities must always be taken into consideration when decisions are made that would affect a student’s access to FAPE.

A decision made even for administrative convenience would be a violation of the Act. For example, if a school, purely for administrative purposes, required students in wheelchairs to leave class early in order to get on a school bus, it would be a violation of the Act because nondisabled students would not have the same early departure requirements. Even when a decision is made for a nondiscriminatory purpose, if it deprives a student with a disability equal access to FAPE, it may be deemed a violation of the Act. 9 Therefore, even if students with disabilities are kept out of school for a reason deemed nondiscriminatory such as their vaccination status, if it denied them access to FAPE, it may be deemed a violation of the Act.

In the same school bus example above, the Act would be violated because all students in wheelchairs would be affected, and each individual student’s needs were not evaluated in making the determination that all students in wheelchairs must leave class early to get on a bus. 10  In the same vein, when a group of students with disabilities are denied entrance to school due to their vaccination status, a blanket decision is being made without taking into consideration each individual student’s best interest with regard to access to FAPE and may be a violation of the Act.

The Act sets forth,

“To be appropriate, education programs for students with disabilities must be designed to meet their individual needs to the same extent that the needs of nondisabled students are met. An appropriate education may include regular or special education and related aids and services to accommodate the unique needs of individuals with disabilities.” 11 (emphasis added)

After it is determined whether it is a violation under the Act to keep students with disabilities out of school due to their vaccination status, the next question is whether they are entitled to receive aids and services as set forth under the Act.

The Act further states,

“The quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities must equal the quality of services provided to nondisabled students.” This includes, “an opportunity to participate in nonacademic services that is equal to that provided to persons without disabilities. These services may include physical education and recreational athletics, transportation, health services, recreational activities, special interest groups or clubs sponsored by the school, and referrals to agencies that provide assistance to persons with disabilities and employment of students.” 12

The Act provides for health services for students with disabilities to ensure that they are provided with an equal quality of education to that provided to nondisabled students. The health services provided to students with disabilities is not necessarily limited to select services that would allow the student to attend a particular school, rather, it encompasses health services that would benefit the student with disabilities to have access to FAPE.

The Supreme Court defined the term services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act ("IDEA"),

"As a general matter, services that enable a disabled child to remain in school during the day provide the student with the meaningful access to education that Congress envisioned." Garret F. ex rel. Charlene F.526 U.S. at 73 (internal quotation marks omitted). Related services therefore include a range of supportive services, such as transportation, speech pathology and audiology services, psychological services, physical and occupational therapy, therapeutic recreation, social work services, counseling services, and diagnostic and evaluative medical services. Id.see20 U.S.C. § 1401(26), (33).R. A-G v. Buffalo City Sch. Dist. Bd. of Educ., 12-CV-960S, at *2-3 (W.D.N.Y. Jun. 30, 2013) (emphasis added)

In order for students with disabilities to have access to FAPE as Congress envisioned, they should receive services as set forth in the Act regardless of where they are able to attend school.

The school has an obligation to ensure that students with disabilities receive FAPE even if the school itself cannot provide same.

“If a recipient is unable to provide a free appropriate public education itself, the recipient may place a person with a disability in, or refer such person to, a program other than the one it operates.” 13

When vaccine exemption laws are repealed or exemptions are denied, a school is no longer able to provide an education to students with disabilities with certain vaccination status. Therefore, the school has a duty to place these students in an alternative school setting.

The Act provides that,

“A recipient may place a handicapped person or refer such a person for aid, benefits, or services other than those that it operates or provides as its means of carrying out the requirements of this subpart. If so, the recipient remains responsible for ensuring that the requirements of this subpart are met with respect to any handicapped person so placed or referred.” 14

This section clearly sets forth that the school “remains responsible for” ensuring that the student with a disability receives the services he/she needs if that student is placed elsewhere. Accordingly, when students with disabilities are denied access to public school due to their vaccination status, and thereby lose services under their 504 plan, the school should remain responsible for ensuring that the students receive services in another environment.

An argument could be made that because the school does not need to place students without disabilities in another school setting, requiring placement of students with disabilities would give students with disabilities an advantage rather than equal access to FAPE. However, students with disabilities would not necessarily have the ability to attend any another school as easily as a nondisabled student as they might need accommodations in order to have access to FAPE. Being denied entrance to public school inherently disadvantages students with disabilities more than nondisabled students and this is contrary to the purpose of the Act.

Because students with disabilities are being denied services they need in order to have access to FAPE provided under the Act, in practical effect the removal of vaccine exemptions disproportionally affects students with disabilities greater than students without disabilities even if the change in the law does not make such a distinction.

Accordingly, students with disabilities have valid complaints that their rights under the Act are violated due to the removal or denial of vaccine exemptions and could consider filing a complaint with OCR.

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New York's Repeal of the Religious Exemption Violates Rights of the Disabled Under The Rehabilitation Act Of 1973

Posted: 7/28/2019 5:24:33 PM | with 0 comments

By Carolyn Hendler, JD

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On June 13, 2019, New York legislators swiftly repealed the religious exemption to vaccination without public hearings. The controversial bill (A2371) was pushed through the Assembly and the Senate in one day and quickly signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo. 1 It passed the Assembly 77-53 with a margin of only one vote and now affects more than 25,000 children (about one percent of all school children) with religious vaccine exemptions attending daycare and public or private schools, including those with disabilities enrolled in special education programs. 2

hallway

Under the new law, children were given 15 days to receive the first dose in a series of age appropriate state required vaccines, which are to be administered according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) schedule, and were ordered to show papers that the remaining required vaccinations were scheduled no later than July 14, 2019. Any student, who fails to either follow these orders or submit a valid medical vaccine exemption signed by a New York state licensed physician, will be denied admittance to all public, private or parochial schools, day care facilities and state operated special education programs. 3

Without notice, children of all ages and health conditions, whose parents had filed religious exemptions with the State of New York, were suddenly denied admittance to summer classes, day-care, school run therapies and other special education programs unless their parents immediately renounced their deeply held religious beliefs and the children received all state required vaccinations. Although home schooling is an option, many parents of these disenfranchised students, including those who are already vaccine injured or with health conditions that make them vulnerable to being harmed by vaccines, are not qualified or financially and otherwise able to home school their children or obtain private educational services. 

On July 15, 2019, a group of parents whose disabled children are being denied special education services and therapies attended a Department of Education Board of Regents meeting to protest what has happened to their children and plead for assistance, but were told that the Board of Regents were not involved in the creation of the new vaccine law and there would be no discussion of it that day. 4 5 The next Board of Regents meeting is Sept. 9-10, 2019 but it is unclear whether the parents’ concerns will be addressed at that meeting. 6

It is clear that the religious freedom and civil rights of all New York residents have been affected by a law that forces families to choose between upholding their religious beliefs or continuing their children’s school education.  Families and schools from across the state have reported that their lives have been turned upside down as children are being kicked out of school. Vaccine injured and other disabled children are being denied badly needed therapies and other services to support their education, and entire schools are having to shut down because of a sudden drop in enrollment. 7 However, it is the students struggling with disabilities, who are shut out of services that they and their parents must rely on, who have been especially hit hard with this sudden reversal in the law.

The federal government has long protected the legal right of students with disabilities to obtain a school education  Enacted to secure equal access to public education for students with disabilities, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (“the Act”) guarantees equal access to free appropriate public education (FAPE) and services in all programs that receive federal financial assistance. 8

girl

The Act provides procedural safeguards that a federally funded institution (school) must follow in order to assure that all students have access to FAPE.  When a violation of the Act is suspected, a student with disabilities or someone on their behalf may file a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education.  Schools found to be in violation of any provision of the Act are subject to enforcement action including administrative proceedings that may terminate financial assistance provided by the US Department of Education.

The Act sets forth that students with disabilities have the right to receive other “education services designed to meet the individual education needs of students with disabilities as adequately as the needs of nondisabled students are met.” 9

Under the Act, a student is evaluated to determine whether he/she has a protected disability. If the student qualifies, a 504 plan is developed, and services are implemented that are necessary for the student to be able to receive FAPE on par with a student without a disability. Services may include physical, speech or occupational therapy and other interventions and services deemed a prerequisite for the student to receive FAPE. 10

In New York, these necessary services have been abruptly terminated for students whose parents had filed religious vaccine exemptions on their behalf because the family’s deeply held religious or spiritual beliefs were in conflict with vaccination requirements. 11 The fact that students with disabilities are being barred from attending school and receiving necessary special education therapies, without immediate access to alternative services and therapies, means they are being denied a free appropriate public education in violation of federal law.

In states that have repealed the religious vaccine exemption, parents of children with disabilities may consider filing a complaint with OCR for numerous violations of the regulations and provisions guaranteed to students with disabilities as set forth under The Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

There is a detailed analysis of the 1973 Act and guidelines for filing a complaint with OCR on NVIC’s website here. Register for the free online NVIC Advocacy Portal here and receive emailed Action Alerts when vaccine-related bills are filed in your state and will be put into direct electronic contact with your own legislators so you can take action to protect your legal rights.

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Federal Student Privacy Rights and Vaccine Registries

Posted: 7/28/2019 5:10:52 PM | with 1 comments

Theresa Wrangham, Executive Director

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Educating yourself on student enrollment requirements during the K-12 or college enrollment process isn’t limited to understanding vaccine requirements and exemptions.

Legislation introduced in some states like Colorado is shifting the authority to obtain vaccine status information on individuals from educational institutions to health departments, which poses a threat to students’ privacy. 1 2  

Protecting your minor child’s privacy will largely depend on your understanding of student privacy rights. Becoming knowledgeable about federal student privacy rights and how federal law intersects with state vaccine laws when vaccine status information is gathered and entered into electronic immunization information systems (IIS), better known as vaccine-tracking registries, will help prevent inadvertent loss of these federal student privacy rights.

information privacy

The majority of state vaccine-tracking registries are opt-out, meaning you or your child’s vaccine information may already be in your state’s vaccine tracking registry without your knowledge or express consent and, if you do not want to share that information, you must actively opt out.

Data Sharing with Vaccine Registries

Most states maintain an electronic vaccine-tracking registry to monitor the vaccination status of children, 3 and in some states these registries also track adult vaccination status. 4 These registries obtain vaccination status information on individuals from a variety of health care sources through electronic health or medical record (EHR or EMR) data-sharing. 5 These sources include local public health agencies, pharmacies, health plans, school-based health centers, and health care professionals and facilities. In some states birth certificates are another source used to populate these registries with vaccination information.

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), student vaccination status stored in vaccine-tracking registries can be disclosed to third parties without consent from parents, guardians, and adult students. 6  

Most educational institutions are subject to a different set of federal privacy rules under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). 7 Information gathered by any K-12 school, college, or university receiving federal funding from the U.S. Department of Education is subject to FERPA.

History of FERPA

During the 1820’s, records gathered by the New England states’ educational institutions grew to include more than enrollment and attendance data. These records, which are now known as a student’s educational record, in some cases included subjective and sensitive information about the student, the student’s family life and medical conditions, with no guidelines on how the disclosure of this information was to be made to parents, students and third parties. 8

By 1970 the lack of disclosure guidelines resulted in information being shared with third parties without parental or student knowledge or consent. Parents and adult students were also often banned from seeing what was contained in these records. 9

courtroom

Due to these privacy concerns, Congress passed FERPA in 1974 with the intent of providing students and parents access to the educational record and to bar the release of an individual’s records to anyone else without the consent of the adult student, or the parents and guardians of a minor child. 10   

FERPA vs. HIPAA

There are differences between federal privacy rights ensured under the 1974 FERPA legislation, 11 12 and medical privacy rights defined in the 1996 HIPAA legislation. 13 Generally speaking, educational institutions subject to FERPA are prohibited from sharing any personally identifiable information in a student’s educational record, unless they have specific written consent from the student’s parents and guardians, or from the adult student. 14

While school vaccine information is usually a part of the educational record, protection from disclosure also depends on what entity is gathering vaccination information.

  • If your state’s school vaccine laws require that school vaccine information be submitted directly to a health department or other state agency instead of the educational institution, it is not protected by FERPA and will likely end up in an electronic vaccine-tracking registry;
  • If your state’s school vaccine laws require educational institutions subject to FERPA to gather vaccination information, then it is protected under FERPA and cannot be uploaded to an electronic vaccine-tracking registry by the educational institution. It also prevents the educational institution from disclosing personally identifying information to third parties without specific written consent from parents, guardians and adult students; 15
  • While student vaccination information may be protected by FERPA in an educational setting, there are other sources that may provide a student’s vaccination information to your state’s vaccine-tracking registry.

As with every rule and law, there are exceptions. For example, educational institutions subject to FERPA can disclose a student’s personally identifiable information when there is a public health emergency or other circumstance that is considered to be a threat to public safety. 16

Overlap between FERPA and HIPAA

While in the majority of cases FERPA supersedes HIPAA in the educational setting, there are instances where FERPA and HIPAA interact together. For example, there is interaction between these laws when schools or colleges provide health care services to enrolled students. 17 To understand when both FERPA and HIPAA apply and how privacy is preserved, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services have issued joint guidance to inform school personnel and the public. 18

child information

The differences in FERPA and HIPAA underscore the importance of understanding privacy rights and school vaccine laws, their application to your situation, and how they interact with each other when you complete school enrollment forms.

Enforcement of FERPA

Protecting and maintaining privacy when it comes to informed consent to vaccination and making voluntary vaccine decisions for minor children continues to be a hotly debated topic in America. Where privacy is protected by FERPA, violations can and should be reported.

If you believe your FERPA rights have been violated, filing a complaint against an educational institution is relatively easy. A claim must be filed within six months of the violation by the parent or guardian on behalf of a minor child, or by the adult student. 19

FERPA violations by educational institutions can result in the withholding of federal funds, a cease and desist order, or termination of eligibility for funding under any applicable program. 20 

Educate Yourself and Protect Vaccine Choice and Privacy Rights 

The introduction of legislation to restrict or eliminate the legal right to make vaccine choices and the erosion of privacy is likely to continue across America in the foreseeable future.

Any abuse of school vaccine laws that involve violations of privacy when personal medical information is shared without consent, should be brought to the attention of the agencies involved and copied to your state legislator with a request for corrective measures. You can learn about your state’s vaccine requirements, exemptions and vaccine-tracking registry on NVIC’s state pages.

NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal tracks legislation to expand or restrict vaccine choices and privacy. NVIC’s staff does the heavy lifting for you and provides analysis of legislation, timely updates and action alerts, effective advocacy tips, and hyperlinks to quickly and easily communicate with your legislators. Every voice is needed and NVIC is here to help make your voice heard. Register today!

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Back to School Vaccine Education to Combat Misinformation

Posted: 7/28/2019 4:55:22 PM | with 5 comments

by Theresa Wrangham, Executive Director

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As the new academic year approaches, school enrollment packages are being sent to families across the U.S. Unfortunately, misinformation about state vaccine laws and the legal right to take vaccine exemptions continues to circulate in many states. Parents and students are challenged to be proactive in seeking out accurate information to inform their vaccine choices and a good place to start is the website of the National Vaccine Information Center at NVIC.org.

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When enrolling my children into school many years ago, the ability to take a vaccine exemption for my children was not hidden from me, nor was it questioned when I filed one. Today, the climate is very different. Federal vaccine policy recommendations and aggressive mandatory vaccination lobbying campaigns in the U.S. and globally have sought to eliminate religious and conscientious or personal/philosophical belief exemptions from vaccine laws1 2 and restrict medical exemptions to narrow CDC-approved contraindications to vaccination.3

Whether or not you choose to vaccinate, understanding student exemption and vaccine requirements beforehand will help you complete these enrollment forms.  

Understanding Your State’s School Vaccine Requirements

NVIC receives numerous inquiries about school vaccine requirements and exemptions throughout the year, but especially during this time of year. Vaccine requirements and exemptions vary from state to state because, while the federal government makes national vaccine use recommendations, each state’s legislature has the authority to make vaccine laws that do or do not contain certain types of exemptions.

State law also defines “school” and whether or not vaccination requirements for school aged children apply to public and private schools and colleges, as well as daycare facilities. These state laws also dictate how often and where information about the vaccination status of school children, including the filing of vaccine exemptions, is submitted.  These laws may also impact student federal privacy rights.

Know the Difference Between Vaccine Requirements vs. Recommendations

The most common experience that parents or students share with NVIC’s counselors is that a school official, doctor or nurse, public health official or daycare worker has told them that every single one of the 69 doses of 16 vaccines recommended by the CDC for children from birth to age 184 is required to be enrolled in school, daycare or college. The fact is that vaccine “requirements” are different from vaccine “recommendations.”

While some states and private educational institutions do require all or most vaccinations recommended by the federal government, the majority of states require fewer vaccines for school enrollment than those recommended by the CDC. Different states offer various types of vaccine exemptions for school attendance and, depending upon specific language in a state’s vaccine law, how and for what reasons those exemptions are valid varies from state to state.

NVIC’s website features a state vaccine exemption map and information on state vaccine laws on the State Law and Vaccine Requirements page.

Be Aware of Changes in Medical Exemptions

If your state has adopted CDC’s vaccine contraindication and medical exemption criteria, a medical exemption you were granted in previous years may no longer be valid. The introduction of legislation5 in states to adopt the CDC’s narrow criteria, which consider few health conditions or even previous vaccine reactions as a contraindication to vaccination, is of great concern to many parents with children who may be at high risk for suffering a vaccine reaction or are already vaccine injured.

boy with computer

Current CDC-approved vaccine contraindications do not take into account significant gaps in vaccine safety science that have been acknowledged in reports published by the Institute of Medicine between 1991 and 2012, including the fact that there are individual susceptibilities predisposing some individuals to vaccine injury and death.6 When state vaccine laws take away the legal right of a doctor to exercise professional judgment and conscience when giving a child a medical vaccine exemption that does not strictly follow CDC contraindications, it interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and the duty of physicians to “first, do no harm.” These kinds of restrictive vaccine laws also discriminate against children at higher risk for suffering vaccine reactions.

Prepare Children to Make Good Choices

Historically, it has been the role of parents to safeguard the health of and make medical care decisions for their minor children until they reach adulthood. However, conversations about vaccines may already be taking place in your child’s classroom based on incomplete and unbalanced information that devalues parental rights and the human right to informed consent to medical risk-taking.7 8 9 10  Laws already have been passed in some states and are being proposed in other states to allow minors to agree to receive vaccines without a parent’s knowledge or consent.11

It is never too early to find out how your child’s school handles vaccination and to proactively create opportunities at home for talking about what you and your child can do if there is pressure placed upon your child in the school setting to get vaccinated without your knowledge or consent. Before they become adults, it is important to share information about their personal and family health history, including reactions to drugs and vaccines, and emphasize the need to make well considered medical and other health decisions.12 Teaching children about how to identify quality health information resources so they can learn how to exercise their informed consent rights is an important skill that prepares children for adulthood.

NVIC is a Trusted Vaccine Information Resource

NVIC has provided well-referenced information on vaccines, diseases, state vaccine requirements and exemption information on our website for 25 years. Currently, the state law pages on NVIC.org contain “back to school” information that is being updated to include the most current state law vaccine requirements.

Following are helpful tips and links to navigate the school enrollment process and you can find  additional information in the Frequently Asked Questions FAQ section of NVIC’s website.

  • Be aware of the difference between a legal vaccine requirement and a recommendation to prevent being bullied and coerced into receiving or giving your minor child vaccines without true informed consent.
  • Research the state vaccine requirements and exemption laws (day care, K-12, college, private educational institution) to understand requirements and exemption options and how they apply to you.   
  • Research whether or not your state allows exemption from vaccination, or revaccination, if there is serological proof of immunity.
  • If dealing with a private business or institution that is not required to follow state vaccine laws, obtain written documentation of what the institution’s vaccine policy is to prevent bullying and coercion in private settings.
  • Understand the basics of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and implications of student vaccine information being transferred into your state’s vaccine registry tracking system. To learn more about registries and FERPA, read NVIC’s article  - title/link.

As you fill out student enrollment paperwork, we hope you find these resources valuable. Please share them with family and friends who are also looking for accurate vaccine information.

Navigating College Vaccine Requirements

As children graduate from high school and prepare to enroll in college, the decision about whether or not to vaccinate becomes their legal right and responsibility. Some of the first health decisions made by young adults are vaccine decisions related to college admission, with meningococcal vaccine being a focus of discussion with incoming freshmen. NVIC’s website provides reliable information on our diseases and vaccine pages for adults, as well as parents of minor children, and can assist young adults navigating through the challenges that come with making medical and other major decisions for the first time.

college

In addition to the tips above, my family found it helpful during the college admissions process to proactively:  

  • Research the state’s vaccine law requirements and allowable exemptions.
  • Ask the college Admissions office for the school’s official vaccination policy in writing, if it is not already posted on the school’s website.
  • Find out if there are study courses, such as nursing or other medical programs, that require vaccination for enrollment and graduation.

It is better for students to have this information before choosing which college to attend, so that there are no surprises when they go through campus orientation.

Report Harassment and Protect Human Rights

If you have personally experienced bullying or harassment for making an independent decision about vaccination that may not conform to what your doctor or someone else tells you to do, you are not alone. We hope you will consider sharing your experience with NVIC on our Cry For Vaccine Freedom Wall. By sharing your experience with NVIC public awareness increases on why it is so important to protect informed consent rights in vaccine policies and laws.

NVIC respects your privacy. When you share these experiences on NVIC’s website, you control how you want your personal experience shared with the public. You can also read first hand experiences that NVIC has been given permission to share with the public on our Cry For Vaccine Freedom Wall.

Stay Up-to-Date on Vaccine Requirements and Exemption Changes

State laws and rules on vaccine requirements and exemptions change and NVIC provides current information on our websites so that you can stay up-to-date.

For example, some state laws permit health departments to add new vaccine requirements through administrative rule changes. These types of changes don’t require a legislature to vote to approve them. In many states changes to school vaccine exemptions are subject to the state’s legislative process and legislation is introduced that legislators must vote on.

statue of liberty

As reported by NVIC, there are continued lobbying efforts by special interest groups to eliminate all personal belief vaccine exemptions and restrict medical exemptions in every state. NVIC posts this information on NVIC’s Advocacy Portal, as well as changes in vaccine requirements and exemptions on our state pages.

The best way to stay up to date with what is happening in your state and protect your ability to make informed, voluntary vaccine decisions is to register for NVIC’s free Advocacy Portal. The Portal provides the public with bill information and analysis, and talking points on legislation to expand or restrict vaccine freedom of choice, and issues action alerts.  It also makes contacting your legislator easy by providing contact links your legislators so that you may quickly communicate your concerns or support to your elected officials.   

We hope you will use the information resources highlighted in this article to research and become knowledgeable about your legal rights when it comes to vaccination. Please join with NVIC in protecting and expanding vaccine freedom of choice for children and adults now and in the future!

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Freedom to Dissent and the New Blacklist in America

Posted: 7/1/2019 6:34:13 PM | with 11 comments

By Barbara Loe Fisher

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Every July 4 since our nation declared independence in 1776, Americans have celebrated this truth:

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” 1

The Declaration of Independence rejected unjust laws imposed by a privileged ruling class. The guiding principles of the Declaration of Independence were codified into the Bill of Rights to limit the power of government and protect our unalienable natural rights.

The First Amendment of the Constitution states that:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” 2

Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion

After World War II, natural rights were defined internationally as human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights published in 1948 states: 3

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person;” and

“All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood; and

“No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks;” and

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance;” and

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

These are among the globally recognized human rights that protect individuals and minorities from discrimination and the kind of government oppression that President Thomas Jefferson talked about when he warned:

“All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.” 4

Freedom to Dissent Hallmark of Freedom

silence

The legal right to dissent has been a hallmark of freedom in America. Unlike in authoritarian governments, 5 in our country, citizens have the right and responsibility to participate in the law making process. We have – or should have - the freedom to openly debate government policy, law and ethics in public forums and dissent from the majority without fear of intimidation or punishment. 6 7

But two and a half centuries after the Declaration of Independence, that is changing.

Autonomy, Protection of Bodily Integrity Attacked By New Ruling Class

An unprecedented attack on civil liberties and the right to dissent is being led by a new privileged ruling class whose power is not derived from aristocratic titles, wealth and political influence linked to genetic heritage and ownership of land. The power of the new ruling class in America is derived from academic titles, wealth and political influence linked to corporatized government 8 9 10 11 12 13 that seeks ownership of our physical bodies. 14 15 16 17 18

The right to autonomy and protection of bodily integrity is the first human right. 19 20 If you cannot voluntarily decide when and for what reason you are willing to risk your life or the life of your child, your unalienable right to life and liberty has been taken from you.

Whether you do or do not agree that every liability free vaccine product sold by pharmaceutical companies is safe and effective, or that federal vaccine policy is anchored with sound science, or that mandatory vaccination laws without informed consent protections are moral, you should take a hard look at recent actions by government officials and corporations to censor and repeal civil liberties that safeguard your human right to autonomy and protection of bodily integrity.

Defaming People and Delegitimizing Civil Liberties with Yellow Journalism

The extraordinary efforts by industry, medical trade and government to delegitimize free speech about vaccination unless it conforms with government policy has given a green light to corporate-owned mainline media outlets to use name calling and other yellow journalism techniques to legitimize the stripping of civil liberties from public health laws. Today, any parent, 21 22 23 doctor, 24 25 research scientist, 26 27 journalist, 28 29 celebrity, 30 31 32 politician, 33 philanthropist 34 35 or non-governmental organization 36 37 38 asking questions about the quality of vaccine science or the ethics of laws requiring use of a liability-free pharmaceutical product that can harm or fail to work, is immediately labeled as an “anti-vaxxer” 39 40 41 42 and publicly defamed, 43 humiliated, 44 discredited 45 and relentlessly targeted for personal and professional ruin. 46 47 48

When the risks of vaccination turn out to be 100 percent for a child and parents describe what happened, their suffering is magnified when journalists gaslight them for witnessing in the public square. It is a shameful display of ignorance and prejudice against biologically vulnerable children and their parents who have been compelled to unequally bear the risks of vaccination for society, and are being demonized for advocating for safer vaccines and more scientifically informed and humane public health policies. 49 50 51 52 Most of all, it is a dangerous assault on freedom of speech by a profession that should be pushing back on discrimination and the erosion of civil liberties, not actively condoning it.

Despite Congress officially acknowledging the fact that vaccines can injure and kill in the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986, 53 and even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2011 that government licensed vaccines are “unavoidably unsafe” so that the multi-billion dollar vaccine industry cannot be held accountable in a court of law for failing to improve the safety of vaccine products, 54 today anyone who publicly questions vaccine safety or advocates for voluntary vaccination is treated like a criminal.

Well-referenced, factual information about vaccine risks and failures is being automatically slapped with the label “misinformation” so it can be censored. 55

Those who advocate for informed consent protections in vaccine laws are called “anti-vaccine” so they can be silenced.

benjamin franklin quote

Benjamin Franklin, co-author of the Declaration of Independence, 56 warned:

“Freedom of speech is a principal pillar of a free government; when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved, and tyranny is erected on its ruins.” 57

Half of US Adults Doubt Vaccine Safety

When people are oppressed by unjust laws and speak up, those in control of lawmaking often resort to censorship to silence calls for reform and force compliance. Your freedom to think, speak and dissent has been put in jeopardy this year at precisely the same time that growing numbers of people in the U.S., Europe and other nations are expressing increased, legitimate concern about the safety of vaccines. 58 59

A recent poll found that nearly half of American adults doubt vaccine safety and of the 45 percent who do, 16 percent were influenced by online information, 16 percent were influenced by knowledge of past secrets and wrongdoing by the pharmaceutical industry and 12 percent were influenced by information from medical experts. 60

Government Officials Call for Censorship of Freedom of Speech on the Internet

So this year, powerful federal legislators have sent a series of letters telling the CEO’s of Google, Facebook and Amazon 61 62 that, “there is no evidence to suggest that vaccines cause life-threatening or disabling diseases,” and that, “the dissemination of unfounded and debunked theories about the dangers of vaccination a great risk to public health.” 63 The social media platforms were directed to remove vaccine “misinformation” and replace it with “medically accurate information.”

This year Americans have watched government health officials making false statements in congressional hearings denying that vaccines like MMR cause brain inflammation and claiming that doctors can predict which children will be harmed. 64 65 And even though thousands of parents traveled to those hearings stacked with witnesses blaming “anti-vaccine misinformation” for disease outbreaks, not one individual was allowed to testify offering a different perspective. 66 67 The FDA Commissioner even threatened state legislators that if they did not restrict or remove vaccine exemptions, the federal government would step in and “mandate certain rules about what is and isn’t permissible when it comes to allowing people to have vaccine exemptions.” 68 69 70

denied

After thousands of Americans showed up at public hearings in multiple states to testify against proposed laws to remove vaccine exemptions, 71 72 73 by June only the state of Washington had eliminated the conscientious belief exemption for MMR vaccine, 74 and Maine had eliminated both the religious and conscientious belief exemption for all vaccines. 75

Then, on June 13, 2019, the New York legislature suddenly rammed a bill to repeal the religious exemption to vaccination through both the Assembly and Senate in one day with no public hearings. 76 77 78 This legislative coup completely cut the citizens of New York out of participating in the law making process. 7980 Within hours, the Governor of New York signed the bill into law and issued a press release quoting one of the bill’s sponsors declaring, “I am incredibly proud that science has won with the passage of this bill. We should be taking medical advice from medical professionals, not strangers on the internet spreading pseudo-science misinformation.”  81

In the weeks leading up to the vote, major newspapers published editorials. 82 83 84 The Partnership for New York City, which represents more than 350 major city employers, including Pfizer, Google, Microsoft and other corporations, also sent a letter to legislators calling for an end to the religious vaccine exemption. 85 86

Many of the lobbyists argued that no major religion has a tenet opposing vaccination, even though vaccine products were not being mandated by governments until long after the world’s major religions were founded. 87 In addition, the U.S. constitution prohibits our government from requiring citizens holding sincere personal spiritual or religious beliefs to identify with an organized religion or be a member of a certain church in order to receive equal protection under the law. 88

The justification for violating the religious freedom of New York residents 89 was primarily based on more than 1,000 cases of measles reported in 28 states this year, with 800 cases identified in several New York City neighborhoods, although there have been no reported measles deaths or injuries. 90  About 75 percent of the New York measles cases have been confirmed in unvaccinated persons with the majority living in orthodox Jewish communities holding sincere religious beliefs opposing the use of vaccines. 91 92 About 97 percent of children attending kindergarten in New York have received two doses of MMR vaccine compared to more than 94 percent of school children nationally. 93

Government health officials and the media blame unvaccinated school children for measles outbreaks. However, on May 25 NVIC published a special report on the history of measles and MMR vaccine providing documented evidence that MMR vaccine failures and waning immunity in vaccinated adults are equally responsible for reported measles outbreaks in highly vaccinated populations like ours. 94

doctor

The illusion of durable MMR vaccine herd immunity is rapidly dissolving.  Measles is being transmitted by vaccinated persons, who are subclinically infected but are not being identified or reported because they show few or no symptoms, while unvaccinated persons fully expressing measles symptoms are being identified, reported and very well publicized. This information is not part of the public conversation when government officials and the media talk about measles outbreaks because it calls into question the accuracy of the narrative simplistically scapegoating unvaccinated children and their parents. 95

Since January, America has been operating under a perceived state of emergency. 96 97 98That happened after the World Health Organization announced that “the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate” - termed “vaccine hesitancy” - is one of top 10 “threats” to global health. 99 100 101 102The word “threat” is defined as one “regarded as a possible source of harm or danger.” 103 It is often used during wartime to elicit fear and hatred of an enemy that a government considers to be a danger to national security.

In any war, real or perceived, rational thinking is the first casualty of fear, which makes it easier for people to agree to a loss of freedom in exchange for a promise of protection from harm.

Just like in 2015 when cases of measles were reported at Disneyland, 104 105 106 107 this year there have been calls for public identification, criminal prosecution and imprisonment of unvaccinated people and parents who don’t vaccinate their children.108 109 110 Anyone who defends the informed consent ethic and criticizes the use of coercion to force compliance with one-size-fits all vaccine policies is called an “anti-vaxxer” and subjected to personal attacks on his or her intelligence, integrity, motives and patriotism in the name of protecting the public health.

blacklist

The litmus test question is: Are you or have you ever been anti-vaccine? If you hesitate, qualify your answer, express doubt or admit to being currently or previously associated with a person or organization labeled as “anti-vaccine,” it is over. You are publicly condemned as an “anti-vaxxer” and a danger to society for infecting others with your opinions, values and beliefs. You are blacklisted and turned into a horrible warning for any person like you who is even thinking about speaking up. Often people recant or throw their friends and colleagues under the bus when threatened with excommunication from society for being labeled “anti-vaccine.”

There was another dark era in American history during the mid-20th century, known as “The Blacklist” or “McCarthy” era, when government officials operated in a climate of fear under a perceived state of emergency that was used to justify taking extreme measures in the name of protecting national security. Beginning in 1947 through 1954, federal legislators suspected there were “communist sympathizers” in government agencies and working in the fields of journalism and entertainment.

Congress held a series of hearings in the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) followed by U.S. Senate hearings chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy (R-WI). 111 112 113 Americans suspected of being a threat to national security were summoned to publicly testify about their personal philosophical, religious and political beliefs and association with persons or organizations believed to be communist sympathizers, a term that became synonymous with being “anti-American.”

The litmus test question was: “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” If the person answered “yes” or refused to answer, he or she risked being blacklisted as a political subversive who infected others with opinions, values and beliefs that posed a danger to national security. Hundreds of Americans, including authors, artists, filmmakers and high profile Hollywood celebrities, were persecuted for their beliefs, sent to prison, denied employment or left the country in self-exile in order to find work. Often people recanted or threw their friends and colleagues under the bus when threatened with excommunication from society for being labeled “anti-American.”

Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow, 114 who helped unmask the smear tactics used by Senator Joseph McCarthy that ended government inquisitions of the “blacklist era,” observed that:

“The right of dissent, or, if you prefer, the right to be wrong, is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. That’s the right that went first in every nation that stumbled down the trail toward totalitarianism.” 

On June 20, despite thousands of parents testifying against a bill that essentially eliminates the medical vaccine exemption in a state that has no personal belief exemption, 115 the California legislature Assembly Health Committee voted to give absolute power to state health officials to reject any exemption granted by a doctor that does not conform with federal vaccine policy. 116 In other states, legislators are moving to pass laws allowing doctors to vaccinate minor children without the knowledge or consent of their parents. 117 118

medical record

Americans are being coerced and denied not only an education, but medical care, insurance and employment for refusing one or more government recommended vaccines. 119  120 121 If you or your child have already suffered vaccine reactions or struggle with chronic brain and immune system problems that doctors deny can be made worse by getting re-vaccinated, you know what it feels like to live in perpetual fear that you will be hunted down and forced to get vaccines that could cause further damage to health. 122

If your life has not been touched by a vaccine reaction, there is no guarantee it won’t happen tomorrow. 123  Government electronic medical records tracking systems are monitoring every vaccine you do and do not take 124 125 and many new vaccines are being developed by industry and government that will be mandated for children and adults alike. 126

Do you want to be forced to use every new vaccine Big Pharma produces 127 and public health officials mandate without your voluntary informed consent?  128129 And what will be done to you if you refuse to comply? Will you be able to get a driver’s license or passport, shop in a store, go to a football game, enter a hospital emergency room, get on a bus or plane, or simply leave your home if you cannot show proof that you have complied with government vaccine policies? Will your unvaccinated children be taken from you? Will you be criminally prosecuted and imprisoned?

What has happened this year are signs that America may well be stumbling down the trail toward totalitarianism by allowing our inalienable rights to be taken away. But we, the people, have the power in our constitutional republic to secure our civil liberties if we refuse to live in fear and defend freedom of speech and conscience and the right to dissent, and if we elect lawmakers who cherish freedom as much as we do.

Unjust laws enacted today can be repealed tomorrow, but only if we wake up, stand up and never, ever give up. 

Be the one who never has to say you did not do today what you could have done to change tomorrow.

It’s your health, your family, your choice. And our mission continues: No forced vaccination. Not in America.

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