April 18, 2019
Measles Outbreak: What Boards Should Be Talking About
According to the US Centers for Disease Control, there have been 555 individual cases of measles confirmed in 20 US states in 2019 as of April 11th. Outbreaks are currently going on in certain areas of New York, California, Washington, Michigan and New Jersey. The New York City Board of Health has mandated the measles vaccine and a parent group of anti-vaxxers has filed a lawsuit against the NYC Health Department over this mandate.
So why do Boards need to pay attention to this? Because you and your school may be faced with the dilemma of what to do about unvaccinated students at your school if there are measles cases in your community. To help you determine what conversations your Board should be having now, I reached out to attorney Matthew Batastini of Schwartz Hannum PC in Massachusetts. He makes the following 4 recommendations to Board Chairs of independent schools:
- Confirm with your Head of School if your school has a policy that explicitly reserves the right to exclude students from school and school activities in the case of a serious contagious disease risk. Where is this policy communicated with families? Is this stated in your student/family handbook or enrollment contract?
- Check your school's crisis management plan and make sure the school has a protocol for handling an infectious disease outbreak.
- Discuss your school's trips policies. Many international travel destinations have CDC recommended vaccine protocols. Some countries require proof of required vaccinations before entry is even permitted. If you have a family who refuses recommended vaccinations for travel for their child, how will you handle those situations? Will you permit them to go on the trip? Not only is that individual child's health a concern, but you have to consider that if this child is permitted to travel unvaccinated and returns to school carrying an infectious disease not commonly found in the US, that may put other unvaccinated students at risk. This creates a real dilemma for schools to deal with. The more you can think through and plan in advance your policies around these issues, the better. Seek legal counsel to help you craft policies in this area.
- Most important, vaccinations and exemptions are largely governed by state laws. Know your state's laws. Relying on advice or best practices from schools in other states can be dangerous.
If you would like to contact Matthew Batastini at Schwartz Hannum PC, he can be reached at 978-623-0900 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesday, May 7th 12:00 - 1:00 pm Eastern
Governance Responsibilities for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Alison Park, independent school diversity consultant and founder of Blink