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Schools Discuss Parental Control Over Vaccination

Updated: May 12, 2023

By Holly Crocco


Local school boards are considering advocating for parental control over whether their children should be vaccinated against COVID-19, after hearing concerns from parents regarding bills circulating in the State Legislature that would make the vaccination a requirement in schools.

“There was, in the last legislative session, two bills intending to add the COVID vaccine to the list of required vaccinations,” said Brewster School Board President Kerry Cunningham during the board’s Jan. 10 meeting. “It’s my understanding that it’s a new legislative session and (the bills) need to be renewed. I don’t believe that has happened, yet – but I don’t know.”

While local districts wait on word from Albany as to whether the state will be requiring vaccination for school-age children, or leave the decision up to parents and individuals, the Brewster School Board unanimously voted to send a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers asking for the latter.

The Carmel School Board tabled a discussion on the matter during its Jan. 10 meeting, which was nearing midnight by the time the topic came up for discussion.

According to Board President Debra Heitman-Cayea, the Putnam County Department of Health sent out correspondence to clear up some misinformation that’s been circulating about the proposed legislation.

“At this time, the proposed legislation has been referred to committees in the respective chambers, and the last action was Jan. 5, 2022,” wrote Interim Commissioner of Health Dr. Michael Nesheiwat in a letter to the board. “Neither of the proposed legislation gives authorization to the local health departments.”

Further, he said the term “fully vaccinated” is not currently defined in either proposed legislation and is not actively in use by the Centers for Disease Control; currently, the CDC recommends the vaccine for those age 6 months and older, and advises that everyone stay “up to date” on immunization practices. Whatever that means is unclear.

Heitman-Cayea said the district’s legal team advised the board that, while the topic may be appropriate for discussion among board members, the superintendent of schools should not be advocating for public health concerns, as she is not a medical expert.

However, board member John Curzio II said he would like the board to advocate for parental control over COVID-19 vaccination of youth.

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