California has some of the strictest vaccine laws in the country, but parents are still finding a way to get around them using schools funded by the state.
State lawmakers banned the use of “personal” and religious belief exemptions for inoculations in 2015, which eliminated the main loophole, but there is still a state-sponsored way to avoid the life-saving laws using the hybrid “charter home school” programs. Use of these programs continues to rise despite measles outbreaks around the United States and the world.
Though many home-based charters bring students together for regular classroom instruction or activities, the state doesn’t uniformly enforce vaccination laws for such programs.
Monique Labarre, a San Diego attorney turned nursing student with an interest in public health, has two children in home-based charter programs. She said she appreciates the flexibility they offer, but that she’s “unpopular” within the home school movement because of her pro-vaccine stance.
“People are taking public money but they aren’t vaccinating. They believe that [the law] doesn’t apply to public home-school charters,” Labarre said. “Home-schooling doesn’t look like what people think — they are clustering together. But the law is not super clear and needs greater regulation.”
It’s bad enough when kids don’t get vaccinated, but even vaccine advocates have accepted the idea of unvaccinated kids not being allowed in public places. Just keep them at home. But these hybrid programs allow groups of home-schooled kids to gather together… which means unvaccinated kids are hanging out with each other, which makes the development of herd immunity even more difficult to achieve.
California’s pro-vaccine laws were written by State Senator Richard Pan, a Democrat and a pediatrician, who was assaulted on the sidewalk by an anti-vax activist in August. The man who was cited for assaulting Pan once ran for the lawmaker’s seat.
Apparently, the problem lies in the wording of Pan’s law, which don’t apply to “home-based private schools and students enrolled in an independent study program.”
Charter schools are public. But for the increasing number of programs that blend home instruction and class time, the rules blur.
California doesn’t have a clear interpretation of whether home-based charter schools qualify for the exemption, and some charter programs have relied on that ambiguity to skirt vaccination requirements.
It just goes to show that, with or without religious and philosophical exemptions to vaccine laws, people will find ways to avoid doing their medical duty and protecting society. Lawmakers could fix this with a simple change in the wording of the existing law, eliminating the loophole. But the change hasn’t occurred yet.