For Immediate Release: Homeschooled Students Should Not Be Left Out of State Vaccination Requirements
Canton, Ma., 02/19/19—The Coalition for Responsible Home Education (CRHE), a national nonprofit founded by homeschool alumni to advocate for homeschooled children, is urging Oregon lawmakers to include homeschooled children in any change to the state’s vaccination requirements. Rep. Mitch Greenlick is in the process of drafting a bill to eliminate non-medical exemptions for vaccinations, requiring all Oregon students to be vaccinated. However, this change would not apply to children who are homeschooled. [Note: On 02/25, Rep. Greenlick introduced House Bill 3063.]
“It is shortsighted to exempt homeschooled children from medical requirements designed to protect children’s health,” said Dr. Rachel Coleman, executive director of CRHE. “We applaud Rep. Greenlick’s efforts to protect public health,” said Coleman. “We urge him not to overlook homeschooled students in this discussion.”
The vast majority of Oregon’s homeschooled children interact freely with children in their neighborhoods and in the community at large. When unvaccinated homeschooled children cluster together, there is increased risk of an outbreak. Over the past decade, numerous outbreaks of measles and whooping cough have taken place in homeschool communities with low rates of vaccination.
Oregon has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country; a measles outbreak in nearby Washington has lawmakers concerned about similar situations occurring in Oregon. Rep. Greenlick’s bill harkens back to a bill passed in California in 2015, which made vaccinations a requirement for public school attendance. Since this regulatory change, California’s vaccination rate has risen significantly.
“Creating a system where parents can use homeschooling to evade medical requirements, rather than homeschooling because they believe homeschooling promotes their children’s educational or social well-being, does these children a disservice,” said Coleman. “Homeschooling is a serious commitment.”
In California, the vaccination rate in public charter schools is significantly lower than other publicly funded schools, due to the number of parents who have opted to homeschool unvaccinated children and enrolled them in public charter schools that offer “independent study” programs.
Claudia Weintraub, the director of River Oaks Academy, says that many parents who call her to enroll a child say that their children are not fully immunized and cannot go to a traditional school. “You don’t really want to homeschool your kid,” Weintraub says she tells these parents. “You’re telling me you’re working all day, so how are you going to homeschool?”
“We cannot afford to leave homeschooled children out of the discussions about vaccinations and public health,” said Coleman. “Homeschooled children are as much a part of our communities as other children.”
The Coalition for Responsible Home Education is a national organization founded by homeschool alumni and dedicated to raising awareness of the need for homeschooling reform, providing public policy guidance, and advocating for responsible home education practices.