NY mom takes school district to court over religious vaccine exemption request

New York News

An East Aurora mom is taking the Orchard Park School District to court. 

Her two daughters have been kicked out of school because their vaccines are not up to date.

She says getting her kids vaccinated goes against her religious beliefs and asked for an exemption. 

When the district denied it, she filed a petition in State Supreme Court.

Marina Williams says her two daughters,13 and 15, are falling behind.

They moved from West Seneca to Orchard Park in October, but have been out of school for two months now.

The Orchard Park School District denied their religious exemption, now Williams and her lawyer say school leaders are breaking New York State law. 

“The Orchard Park school system is asking me to go against everything that I believe in and my faith,” says Williams. 

Williams says she’s not part of the anti- vax movement, but she refuses to give her two daughters vaccines. “I’ve never had a vaccine before. My mother, my sister, my aunt, haven’t either. To me, that was just a given…I’ve never had to defend it before.”

Her faith says you should not put foreign substances into your body including alcohol, drugs and vaccines. She and lawyer Frank Housh say Williams’ kids are not a health risk. 

“We understand that there are large public health concerns related to vaccination, but that is not what this case is about,” said Housh. 

Williams’ girls were granted an exemption when they were in the West Seneca School District, but Orchard Park denied it. The family then requested a stay in court for that exemption, and The Board of Education denied it.

Housh said, “These children dont have to be vaccinated if they have a legitimate religious reason not to do that. The law  says they have to be educated, they are refusing to do that.” 

These two girls wont get any education until this is settled in court. Williams and Housh are now appealing the Commissioner of Education, but that process could take awhile. 

“Appeals to the Commissioner of Education take no less than 8 months, and I have waited as long as 3 or 4 years.” 

In the meantime, court documents claim the district made no alternative, educational arrangements. 

The documents also say the district harassed Williams by phone, threatening to call Child Protective Services and have the children removed from her custody. 

“They’ve trheatened to call the police and CPS, and said if we come back on, if I brought my children to that school we would be arrested for tresspassing.”

Lawyers for the school district released a statement reading: 

“A school district has no duty more important than protecting the health, safety, and welfare of its students and staff.  Ensuring the immunization requirements under New York State law have been met is critical to carrying out this duty.  Because this matter is now before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment any further at this time.”

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