This is the dumbest-yet-meant-to-be-serious lawsuit I’ve seen in ages.
Kristen and Brian Festa have an autistic son who attends Meliora Academy in Meriden, Connecticut. When the state’s public health department released a list of the vaccination rates for public and private schools for the 2017-2018 school year, Meliora Academy had one of the lowest scores in the state, with 18.5% of students unvaccinated due to religious or medical exemptions. (In this case, they’re almost all religious exemptions.)
The Festas say that revelation led to general harassment online against the school — and, by extension, them… even though there was no public list of which kids weren’t vaccinated.
Now they’re suing to stop the state from releasing vaccine rates from the 2018-2019 school year… so that no one knows which schools are the most dangerous.
The Festas claim that almost immediately after the May 3 release of the [2017-2018] information that “hateful and vitriolic statements regarding non-vaccinated students and parents began appearing on the internet. Upon information and belief, these and prior statements are characteristic of the harassment commonly experienced by parents who do not immunize their children due to a religious objection.”
Some of the postings on Facebook included comments, according to the lawsuit, such as, “If my kid can’t bring peanut butter to school then yours can’t bring the deathly plague. Vaccinate or I’m bringing the Jiffy.”
The Festas argue that since the school their 7-year-old son attends was “publicly exposed as a school with one of the highest rates of exemption usage, all students and parents of students at Meliora and other schools with high exemption rates — including the Applicants — are potential targets of harassment.”Even though their son has not received a specific threat, “the public response to the Defendant’s release of confidential immunization information has been overwhelmingly negative and hateful.”
Specifically, the Festas say state law requires vaccination information to be “confidential,” therefore it’s illegal to publicly share vaccination rates. The state would say they are respecting confidentiality because they’re only publishing the vaccination rates, not the names of kids who aren’t vaccinated.
It’s hard to see how the Festas could win this case when they’ve suffered no specific harm and the state has an excellent reason for releasing that information to the public.
If a school is criticized online because it’s putting children at risk of catching preventable diseases, good. They deserve it. Just because some parents don’t give a damn about the health and safety of their own child doesn’t mean other parents should suffer the same risk. The more public information about vaccination rates at various schools, the better for everyone. They’ll know which schools to avoid.
In the meantime, the state legislature needs to eliminate religious exemptions for everyone. They failed to do that at the end of the most recent session, and more people will be in harm’s way because of it.