Despite a recent measles outbreak in New York City with 550 reported cases, a Five Towns school is awaiting a decision from the State Education Department on allowing two unvaccinated students to return to school.
The Shulamith School for Girls in Cedarhurst and the unvaccinated students have been waiting on an appeal decision from SED Commissioner MaryEllen Elia since January. The lawyer for the student’s parents has appealed to the SED the school’s decision to prohibit the students from attending the school.
The school initially prohibited the two students from attending school last December until they were vaccinated for the measles. The lawyer for the student’s parents then went to SED on the issue, this led to SED siding with the parents and issuing a “stay,” which has permitted the unvaccinated students to attend school since January.
On May 28, Shulamith officials blocked the family from sending their daughters to an after-school art show that took place the same night. A federal judge from the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn ruled in favor of the school that Tuesday, and prohibited the students from attending the event.
The school’s lawyer Philip Kalban of the Manhattan-based Putney, Twombly Hall & Hirson LLP explained what occurred. “The education department sent a letter to us saying that if a vaccinated student can attend an after-school program, so can an unvaccinated child,” Kalban said. “We then ran to court to explain that this was wrong.”
While the NYC DOH has reported that 550 people have been diagnosed with the measles from October 2018 through the end of May, Nassau County has not had a reported case of the measles in the past six years.
Nassau County Health Department spokeswoman Mary Ellen Laurain declined to elaborate on the matter by saying this is a “State Education Department issue.” But she did note rates for children in Nassau. “The percentage of non-vaccinations for religious exemptions are low in the county, with a 0.66 percent among public school children and a 1.84 percentage for children in private school,” she said.
Cedarhurst resident Mark Getman lives three blocks from the school and posted on his Facebook page on June 2 about the issue. “The school is three blocks from us. I agree with the school, vaccinate your kids!!!”
SED spokeswoman Jeanne Beattie issued a statement regarding the appeal process. “There has not yet been a decision in this appeal,” she said in an email. “The commissioner acts like a judge when she decides appeals brought before her under section 310 of the NYS Education Law — so we do not comment on any appeals that are pending before the Commissioner or that may come before her as an appeal.”
Kalban said that he has not been given a timeline and is not sure when a decision will be made on the appeal.
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