MASSENA, N.Y. (WWNY) - More students will have to get vaccinations to get into school this fall. It’s that, or leave. Governor Andrew Cuomo in June signed a law ending New York’s religious exemption for school immunizations.
“We do want to work with these families. We understand that many of them do hold genuine and sincere religious beliefs when it comes to immunization. But the law is the law,” said Patrick Brady, Massena schools superintendent.
The law was passed in response to measles outbreaks. The number of students with the religious exemption locally is small, but significant. For example, 21 students in Canton schools have the exemption. It’s 10 students in Massena.
“We want to work with all parents. We want to work with these parents to insure that their children are getting an education,” said Brady.
Educators didn’t want to discuss whether the law was right or wrong. What they wanted to talk about was the impact on students.
Parents are being told about homeschooling as an option. School districts can help them with that. But that can still leave parents with a very difficult choice.
“It’s terrifying for some of these families. They want to be here and this law says that they can’t be,” said Steve Molnar, Little River Community School director.
Molnar said Little River parents are deeply committed to the school. But there are some who believe vaccinating their children is wrong.
“It would not be easy for them to change that belief,” he said.
Students who previously had the religious exemption must have their first round of immunizations 14 days before school starts.