The requirement that students receive state-required vaccinations before being allowed to attend public school is coming under increased challenge from parents who choose to “opt-out” of vaccination requirements. The Supreme Court of West Virginia recently upheld the exclusion of a student from school until the child received his required vaccinations.
The West Virginia Code of State Rules was recently revised so as to require that children attending middle and high school receive the Tdap vaccine booster and meningococcal vaccine before being allowed to attend school. When the student, T.J., was not allowed to attend middle school in Mercer County, the parent, referred to as D.J., filed suit.
The parent claimed that since public education is a fundamental right in West Virginia, the school district cannot deny T.J. an education by not providing alternative arrangements. The parent concedes that T.J. is out of compliance with the immunization rule, but argues that this rule cannot supersede a student’s right to an education.
In rejecting the parent’s claim, the Court held that the protection of the health and safety of the public is one of the most important roles of the State. As a result, the Court found that there is a compelling state interest for the challenged rules that require proof of vaccinations to attend public school in West Virginia. At least in this instance, the requirement that a child receive vaccinations before being allowed to attend a public school was upheld.