Known as Senate Bill 277, the state law makes California one of three states to permit exemptions to school vaccinations only for medical reasons. Gone are exemptions based on religious or personal beliefs. The law says all public and private school students must be vaccinated against 10 communicable diseases unless they have a medical exemption, they are home-schooled or they are enrolled in independent study with no classroom instruction.
With school districts beginning to enforce the law on July 1, legal experts say a conflict is likely to arise between the state mandate and the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which says students who qualify for special education services, such as intensive reading interventions that are provided in general classrooms, must receive those services. A conflict also has the potential to unite two impassioned groups of parents — those who oppose vaccinations and those who insist on the right of students to receive special education services in mainstream classrooms, attorneys said.
But what if the special education student is unvaccinated? Would that student be allowed to attend school? Or would an unvaccinated special education student have to receive services at home? Lawyers have lined up on both sides of the issue, offering conflicting opinions on how the state law intends school districts to carry out its mandate. It’s an argument that lawyers on both sides say is likely to end up in court.