School board right to suspend
This year, over 1,300 county students have to prove they were immunized or face a 20-day suspension from school.
While a suspension like that can be jarring, most can argue that not being vaccinated is not the child’s fault. That responsibility lies with the parents. It begs the question of whether the punishment fits the crime.
The threat of a suspension worked last year.
Of the 3,900 letters sent by public health to area students with incomplete records in 2016, only 480 were suspended for not updating their records. And within a week 90% were able to return to school. These statistics means that this tactic works.
Ontario students must be vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus, polio, measles, mumps and rubella and the Immunization of School Pupils Act gives the authority to the school to suspend students who are not vaccinated.
This tactic can promote health awareness in children and lead to responsible, healthy adults.
By vaccinating your child, you are not only protecting them from awful diseases but protecting the larger community as a whole through herd immunity.
The best thing public health can do is make it abundantly clear to parents what needs to be done and by what date.
The best thing parents can do is protect their kids with vaccinations and let them get back to school.
Don’t punish the student
Last week Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health announced that approximately 5,000 local elementary and high school students could be suspended from school.
Why? Because they’re missing the required vaccinations.
Here’s where it gets muddy. For a student’s vaccinations to be on record, parents must report each shot directly to the health unit.
But what if parents forget?
The child may have done everything right and maintained a spotless record, but due to a simple clerical error they’re now facing the possibility of suspension.
When has it ever been acceptable to punish a child for their parent’s mistakes?
From the student’s perspective this is the best kind of suspension. They get to skip school and know they did nothing wrong. In fact, because all students facing suspension are under the age of 18, it’s simple to blame the mix-up on their mom or dad.
But what about the education and classes they’ll be missing, the sports practices that will go on without them, the friendships that will be made in their absence?
Instead of suspension, maybe schools can withhold grades from parents until vaccinations are up to date or have them pay a fine, rather than putting their child’s social and educational well-being in jeopardy.
Better yet, spare the confusion, keep vaccinations up to date and report them to public health immediately. It’s that simple.