More schools enforcing state vaccination law, sending kids home

Justice SystemHealthMarion County (Indiana)

This week, many Indiana schools began sending kids home if they failed to show proof of their state-required immunizations. The move comes in response to a state law, which was in place last year but wasn't enforced by all.
 
Though more schools are on board this time, the confusion over who holds districts accountable remains murky. Nurses in schools across the Hamilton Southeastern District spent Wednesday making calls to parents offering one last reminder to get their kids vaccinated or to keep them home.
 
"Today is the last day that you can attend without the immunizations that you need to be in school," said student services director Michael Beresford. "The 20 day waiver ends today."
 
Last year, that same state law and waiver caused a mass confusion among parents along with a last minute demand for shots that health departments struggled to keep up with. Hamilton Southeastern and Carmel districts let the deadline come and go without enforcing it due to the lack of resources.
 
This year is different, though. Beginning Thursday, Hamilton Southeastern is set to exclude 56 students until they show proof of their shots.
 
Earlier in the week, Carmel sent roughly 70 kids home. Three days later, a Carmel spokesperson said all of their students are back in school. Hamilton Southeastern hopes their phone calls will lead to the same result.
 
"Our school nurses have been communicating and over communicating," Beresford said. "I call it politely nagging."

In Indianapolis, where 33 schools don't even have nurses, the task is a lot more difficult.
 
According to IPS, there are still about 5,000 students without proof of their immunizations, and the deadline for excluding students from school is coming up on Monday.
 
Last year, IPS pushed back the deadline, but after many students failed to take part in massive vaccination clinics, the district decided to enforce the law and sent thousands of kids home.
 
At the time, Fox59 News talked to State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin about how schools were supposed to be enforcing the law.
 
"It isn't our intention to exclude children from attending school if their vaccination history is not complete within that 20 day window," Larkin said.
 
This year, a department of health spokesperson said that view hasn't changed. A spokesperson for the Department of Education, which also works with schools on compliance, said that they leave it up to schools to enforce the law. Neither agency said they take any action if a school fails to comply.
 
"The State Department of Health says that they make these laws, but they don't enforce them," said Rae Wallis, head of nursing for IPS. "The Department of Education says that they want kids in school, so we're in between a rock and a hard place."
 
IPS expects many of the 5,000 students without proof of their shots, to comply by the Monday deadline. If not they will be sent home.
 
In order to comply with the law a student must at least notify the school of a doctor's appointment to obtain the required shots. Students may also obtain a medical or religious waiver.
 
Parents in Marion County are told to call the Marion County Health Depatment in order to find out where to get the immunizations. Please call 221-2122 for more information.

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