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While the state of New York was facing one of the most serious measles outbreaks in decades, public health officials in a suburb have made the extraordinary decision of the state of New York. prohibit unvaccinated students from attending school, whether or not they have benefited from a religious or medical exemption for the vaccine.
Parents of 42 children affected by the school's ban, the Green Meadow Waldorf School, sued the Rockland County Health Department, asking a federal judge to issue an injunction authorizing the return of the children. children.
On Tuesday, the request was refused.
At a hearing in White Plains federal court, Judge Vincent Bricetti said the parents had not proved "that the public interest weighs in favor of an injunction", according to the daily. The news newspaper.
"Although no one appreciates the fact that these kids left school, these orders worked," said county attorney Thomas E. Humbach in a statement. "They helped prevent the measles outbreak from spreading to this school population."
The decision added to growing public resistance against people who do not vaccinate their children. Last week, a teenager from Ohio who was vaccinated against the wishes of his family gave a dramatic testimony before Congress the way he thought his mother was prey to conspiracy theories largely debunked on the dangers of vaccination.
A few days later, lawmakers in New York proposed a bill that allow adolescents to get vaccinated without parental consent. On Monday, local chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics expressed their support for legislation.
Until now, no confirmed case of measles has been reported at Green Meadow, a private school offering educational programs for early childhood and kindergarten to grade 12 education that, at Like other schools Waldorf, follows a philosophy of teaching focused on non-denominational spiritual development.
But Rockland County has been the epicenter of the measles outbreak in New York City, with 146 confirmed cases since October, the vast majority of them in the 18 years old and under. Many cases have involved members of Orthodox Jewish communities where vaccination rates tend to be below average, public health officials said.
According to Michael Sussman, a parent lawyer who sued the Rockland Health Department, all the children at the center of the trial had received religiously based immunization exemptions. But neither they nor their parents are orthodox Jews, he said.
The so-called "exclusion orders" from Rockland County were first introduced in December to county authorities to ban unvaccinated children from schools, said a county spokesman. Under orders, unvaccinated children were not allowed to attend targeted schools until the vaccination rate had reached 95%.
Even when schools did not have confirmed measles cases, such as at Green Meadow, officials still feared that unvaccinated children would be exposed to measles in other public places, such as shopping malls, and that they then spread the disease in their schools, said Ed Day. , the executive of Rockland County.
At one point, 60 schools, many in ultra-Orthodox communities, and 6,000 students were affected by orders, officials said.
This included 49 students from grade 8 (grade 8 and under) from Green Meadow. The complaint does not mention the names of the parents or their children.
Mr. Sussman stated that his clients felt that religious exemptions disqualified them from the ban.
"What Rockland County has done is remarkably irrational in every way imaginable," he said.
The court complaint indicated that Rockland County officials had violated children's constitutional rights by forcing them to stay at home. The order also "significantly disrupted" the education of children, said the complaint.
Vicki Larson, a spokesperson for Green Meadow, said the school had no official position on vaccination but that she was following the law of the state of New York which allows religious exemptions for vaccination and vaccination.
But she said the school followed the county's exclusion decision and was working with the Rockland County Health Department. To return to school, students will have to prove that they are immunized against measles or that they have received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, she said.
"We are ready to welcome our excluded students as soon as this is legally possible," said Larson.
The Rockland County Health Department said that last week, the vaccination rate at Green Meadow Elementary School was about 56%. Ms. Larson said the school had paperwork proving that her rate in elementary school was actually 83%, which is still below the threshold required by the county.
Green Meadow High School reached a 95% rate earlier this year and was no longer able to exclude unvaccinated children at the end of January.