The ACLU is neutral on SB 277, the California bill regarding vaccinations. We expressed concerns in an April 2, 2015 letter to the Senate committees on Health, Education and Judiciary regarding the bill as originally drafted.
Statement of Kevin Baker, Legislative Director for the ACLU of California
Safe schools are important, and immunization is a valuable protection against outbreaks of infectious diseases. At the same time, we need to proceed with great caution on any proposed law that deprives kids of their fundamental right to education by banning them from classrooms.
Virtually all California schools already enjoy good immunization rates that offer full protection against outbreaks. In districts where the immunization rates are reportedly lower, the lower rate may result from multiple factors besides parental objection to vaccines.
In some cases, children are not vaccinated against every covered disease because parents lack knowledge, have poor access to health care, face transportation problems, or other barriers. In other cases kids are actually vaccinated, but the school has not maintained appropriate records or has not transmitted those records to the proper agency. In still other cases, parents have made an intentional decision not to vaccinate their children. In all cases, California has a constitutional duty to ensure that the child is provided with a quality education.
By sharing our concerns, we hope that California’s Legislators will carefully consider the competing interests of public education and public health, and find a solution that protects both.