School districts fighting for parental rights? Even before the pandemic they were challenging mandatory vaccines in New York
03/09/2021 // Cassie B. // Views

Although there is no shortage of stories involving school districts taking stances that oppose parents’ wishes, some school districts have stood up for parental rights on matters like vaccines. Will parental rights fare as well as we make our way through the pandemic?

Before the pandemic hit last year, several Long Island school districts had opposed legislation aimed at adding more mandatory school vaccinations. One of the bills they opposed required children to receive the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine. Although it claims to protect against the sexually transmitted disease, which sometimes causes cancer but is usually harmless, it has been linked to a disturbingly high number of adverse effects.

The vaccine has left countless young people, mostly girls, with serious health problems. More than 100,000 Gardasil-related adverse events have been reported to the World Health Organization and the FDA, and dozens of girls have died from it.

The chances of a person getting an autoimmune disease from the Gardasil HPV vaccine are 1,000 times higher than their chances of being saved from a potential cervical cancer death. It has also been shown to affect fertility and raise the risk of miscarriages.

Southampton schools wrote letters to members of the state’s health committee asking them to take the measures off the table on the grounds that they were an “erosion of parental rights”. They were joined by more than a dozen other school districts in Suffolk County, who wrote similar letters. They pointed out that children are not at risk of being infected by HPV while at school because it is sexually transmitted, making it a very inappropriate requirement for attending classes.


Another bill mandated flu shots for students. School districts wrote letters opposing these measures as well and questioned the effectiveness of flu vaccines. In the letter from Southampton, the lack of long-term research on the effects the HPV and flu vaccines have on children was cited. They also drew attention to how many vaccine doses children receive. The CDC says children need to receive a total of 72 doses of various vaccinations; the HPV and flu vaccine doses would bring that number up to 93 total vaccine doses before a child reaches their eighteenth birthday.

Pandemic and distance learning chipping away at parental rights

The pandemic and distance learning have also been chipping away at parental rights. Take the example of the Children’s Online Privacy Act, or COPRA, which generally requires that websites and online services get parental consent before collecting the personal information of kids under the age of 13. Under COPRA, schools can now consent on behalf of parents to allow educational technology services to collect their kids’ personal information – whether the parents want that information shared or not.

Distance learning is also infringing on parents’ rights when it comes to media releases. Many parents choose not to sign the media release forms given to them by their schools, which means their child will not be allowed to be photographed or identified individually in any way on any platform. Although there might be group shots at a long distance that contain the child’s image, good faith efforts must be made to exclude them.

Parents have many reasons for choosing this route, whether they simply want privacy, have jobs of a sensitive nature, or wish to protect their children from a tense family situation. Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping people in other students’ households from recording interactions between these students and their teachers or classmates and then distributing it online.

Parental rights are constantly coming under attack, and while it’s positive to see some school districts taking a stance to protect those rights, especially when it comes to vaccines, countless others are showing little regard for the choices parents make for their children – and the pandemic is only making this situation worse.

Although the COVID-19 vaccines currently available are not being recommended for children yet, it is probably only a matter of time before parents will have yet another fight on their hands – and it will be interesting to see who school districts side with when it comes to requiring coronavirus vaccines for school attendance.

Sources for this article include:

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