More than 100 Rochester students will be sent home from school Wednesday if they can’t prove they’ve been vaccinated or officially exempted from the state law that requires them to be immunized.
Public school officials said they have worked “diligently” since January to inform families that students must be vaccinated to attend school, or provide documentation for an exemption.
Despite those efforts, 204 students still hadn’t met those requirements last week, prompting school officials to take the unusual step of announcing that students will be kept out of school until they submit the necessary paperwork.
Since that announcement, about half the students have complied, but 103 students remained noncompliant on Tuesday.
When those students arrive at school on Wednesday, they will be removed from classrooms and brought into school offices, where administrators will try to reach parents to resolve the situation, said Heather Nessler, a spokeswoman for Rochester Public Schools.
“We’ll just keep working to make sure that either they visit Public Health or one of the clinics in town to fill out the proper forms,” Nessler said.
Students will be allowed to return to school once the paperwork is provided.
Students can be exempted if there is a medical reason or if the parent or guardian provides a notarized statement saying it’s a violation of their “conscientiously held beliefs.” Minnesota is one of 18 states that allow exemptions for philosophical or personal beliefs.
School officials said they sent multiple letters to parents about this issue before they resorted to setting the March 1 deadline to comply with the immunization law or be removed from school.
The law doesn’t provide clear guidance on how districts should enforce the law mandating vaccinations, officials said. A state attorney general’s opinion says students “must be afforded some level of due process” before being excluded from school for not complying with vaccination requirements.
“Preventing a student from enrolling in school is a serious issue. The district wanted to make sure it gave families ample opportunity to bring themselves into compliance before it prevented any students from attending school,” officials said in a statement last week.
Superintendent Michael Muñoz said it was the first time in his six-year tenure that he has had to ask the board to take such action.
A district spokeswoman said officials can’t speculate why these students, who are spread throughout the district and age groups, have failed to meet the requirements six months into the school year.