Concerned parent Phil Hudok addressed members of the Randolph County Board of Education Tuesday evening during its regular meeting. He said his daughter, Olivia, a senior at Pickens School, was told not to return to school today because she was not vaccinated with the required boosters for 12th-grade students.
The deadline for all seventh- and 12th-grade students to show proof of a booster for Tdap and MCV4 vaccinations was Tuesday, when students returned to school following the Labor Day weekend.
The Tdap immunization protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough. Meningococcal meningitis, a serious bacterial infection of the spinal cord, is prevented with the MCV4 vaccine.
"This country was founded on people who came here for religious freedom," Hudok said. "It is a matter of religious conviction to me, my wife and my daughters. You will find no tattoos nor body piercings on us and we will not allow toxic materials to be injected into our children."
Hudok said Helvetia physician Dr. Jerome Arnett Jr. wrote a note stating that Olivia Hudok holds firm religious convictions against taking the vaccinations required for her to attend public school in Randolph County.
West Virginia and Mississippi are the two states in the nation that do not have a religious conviction against vaccinations.
Hudok added he would be taking his daughter back to school today, and said West Virginia Code 16-3-4 does not provide for compulsory immunization of school children except for those entering school for the first time.
Board member Ed Tyre asked if there was a choice in the matter.
"We have approximately 29 students who are still not vaccinated," Randolph County School Superintendent Dr. James Phares said. "I want to tell the board that (Mr.) Hudok has been very respectful during our conversations. He just has a point of view that is different from us."
Phares said the West Virginia Dept. of Health and the State Board of Education have mandated the immunization policy.
"My question is (whether) the West Virginia Dept of Health has the right to tell school boards who to exclude from education," Phares said. "The local board of education is asked to be the body to enforce these rules."
Phares said they have done as they were directed and asked the students not to return to school until they are vaccinated.
"We will contact the local health officer," Phares said. "They will have to show under what authority we can exclude children from education."
In other news, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Pam Hewitt updated the board with Adequate Yearly Progress status.
In the 2011 to 2012 school year, eight of the 14 Randolph County Schools met AYP standards.
Hewitt reminded members that the WESTEST 2 is just one assessment tool used to measure student performance and growth in Randolph County Schools.
"Above all else, we need to value student growth," Hewitt said.
Hewitt said Beverly Elementary School has not obtained AYP for the last two years.
"We had a meeting and offered another school for students from Beverly School to attend," Hewitt said.
"The parents would have to make application to change schools and then would have a choice of two schools. Not one parent submitted an application to change schools."
The next Randolph County Board of Education meeting is set for 6 p.m. Sept. 17 at the central office.
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.