If more than 100 kindergarten and 7th grade students do not meet new state immunization requirements by Wednesday, they could face penalties for truancy.
Beginning Nov. 5, 46 kindergarten and 86 seventh-grade students were excluded from school for missing the Oct. 31 deadline for immunization requirements, said Max Pugh, a spokesperson for Prince George’s County Public Schools. The students may return to school if they bring in proof of immunization, proof from a health care provider that the immunization may be harmful to the student, or a signed request for exemption letter.
Students have five days for unlawful medical absences, Pugh said. After five days, schools will initiate the truancy process. The process begins with a parent conference, followed by home visits which can ultimately lead to referral to legal action, according to the school district’s truancy policy.
John Erzen, communications director for the Prince George’s County State’s Attorney’s Office, could not say if the office would prosecute a truancy case.
“At this point, our office is not involved as this is an issue between the school system and parents,” Erzen said. “If a case was brought to us, we would have to evaluate it before making a decision as to whether or not we would pursue it. If it was something we’d pursue, we’d have to evaluate it on a case-by-case basis.”
New state immunization requirements issued earlier in April by the Maryland State Board of Education required kindergarten students to have two doses of the Chicken Pox vaccine and seventh-grade students to have a Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis (TDaP) vaccine and a Meningitis vaccine.
“We’re doing everything possible to get students immunizations,” Pugh said. “The numbers of [non-compliant] students have gone down dramatically.”
The school district offered free immunizations at the Prince George’s County Health Department and Cheverly Health Center from Oct. 6 to Oct. 20. The school district also offered free immunizations at Northwestern High School, Oxon Hill High School and Crossland High School on Oct. 18.
In late October, the school system sent nurses to administer vaccines in 15 middle schools in the county. Additionally, the school district informed parents that the Children’s Hospital, Mary’s Center and three locations of the Greater Baden Medical Services would administer immunizations to students with or without insurance.
The school system is no longer offering any clinics, but it is conducting outreach efforts to the parents of students who still don’t have required immunizations, Pugh said.
Our leaders must remember that education doesn’t begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington. It doesn’t even begin with state or local officials. Education begins in the home, where it is a parental right and responsibility. –Ronald Wilson Reagan ~ Date: April 15, 1982