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Governor signed SB 277, which eliminates the personal belief exemption from student immunization requirements

On June 30, 2015, Governor Brown signed SB 277.  This bill eliminates the personal belief exemption from the requirement that all students be immunized (vaccinated).

Effective July 1, 2016, a governing entity of a public or private elementary or secondary school[1]  may not unconditionally admit any student, or advance the student to the seventh (7th) grade (for those immunization required before admission to seventh grade), unless the student has the immunizations required by Health and Safety Code section 120325.  The bill does, however, contain the following exemptions to this rule:

  • Students who, prior to July 1, 2016, have a personal belief exemption on file must be admitted to school even if they have not been immunized. This exemption is good only until the child enrolls in the next grade span, however.
    • “Grade spans” are: (1) birth to preschool; (2) kindergarten and grades 1 through 6; and (3) grades 7 through 12.
    • Example: A student without required immunizations entered kindergarten in August 2014 and his or her parent filed a personal belief exemption at that time. Under SB 277, that student must be admitted until he or she completes grade six (6), even if he or she has not been immunized.  The district can prohibit the student from admission to grade seven (7), however, if the child remains unvaccinated.  This is because the exemption expires at the end of the grade span.
  • These rules do not apply to students who are in home-based private school and students enrolled in independent study programs who do not receive classroom-based instruction.
  • SB 277 does not prohibit a student eligible for an IEP from accessing any special education and related services required by his or her IEP.
  • Students can still file a medical exemption from the vaccine requirement.
    • To obtain a medical exemption, the parent must file a written statement by a licensed physician to the effect that the physical condition of the child is such, or medical circumstances relating to the child are such, that immunization is not considered safe.
    • The physician’s statement must indicate the specific nature and probable duration of the medical condition or circumstances, including, but not limited to, family medical history, for which the physician does not recommend immunization.

If a student is not immunized (pursuant to a medical exemption or pre-2016 personal belief exemption) and there is good cause to believe the child has been exposed to a disease for which students must be immunized, a school or district has an option to protect other students. That student may be temporarily excluded from school until the local health officer determines that the student is no longer at risk of developing or transmitting the disease.

This new law will likely require revisions to Board Policies, Administrative Regulations, Parent Notifications, and other district policy manuals, handbooks, and publications.  Please contact Kingsley Bogard for assistance with these revisions and any other questions regarding SB 277.
[1] This bill also applies to students seeking admission to child care centers, day nurseries, nursery schools, family day care homes, and development centers.

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