When the Delaware 148th General Assembly returns from recess on April 21st, five new education legislation submissions will be on their plate. These bills cover the authority of the Delaware Secretary of Education (currently Mark Murphy) and Labor Relations, the charter school enrollment radius, charter school applications being approved by the local school board before the Delaware State Board of Education, suicide prevention training for Delaware teachers, and immunization requirements in the event of an epidemic and how this would impact students who do not get immunized based on religious beliefs. All the legislation introduced can be seen below. The Mark Murphy Authority bill is sponsored by State Rep. Sean Lynn, the charter bills by State Rep. John Kowalko, the Suicide Prevention bill by State Rep. Valerie Longhurst and Senator Nicole Poore, and the immunizations bill by State Rep. Sean Matthews and Senator Bethany Hall-Long.
While many Delawareans are talking about parents opting their child out of the state assessment, rookie Delaware State Representative Sean Matthews is proposing legislation that is very controversial at best…the subject of immunizations. Under this proposed legislation, any child who is unvaccinated during an outbreak of what is a disease that can be vaccinated would be required to stay home from school during the outbreak.
Details on this potential legislation were released yesterday in the House Democrats weekly newsletter, Legislative Hall Insider. Matthews is working with Delaware Senator Bethany Hall-Long on the legislation.
Bill Would Add Language to Immunization Opt-out
Lawmakers this week announced a proposal designed to raise awareness of the risks involved with not immunizing school-aged children and to encourage families to have their children vaccinated.
The draft proposal, spearheaded by Rep. Sean Matthews, would amend the state’s religious belief exemption affidavit for the public school immunization program. Currently, Delaware requires all children attending public schools to receive vaccines for certain preventable diseases – such as polio, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella – while allowing parents exemptions for medical reasons or religious beliefs.
In Delaware, the Division of Public Health reports that 0.8 percent of children are exempted because of religious beliefs, while 0.1 percent are not vaccinated due to medical reasons.
Rep. Matthews’ proposal would amend Delaware’s religious belief exemption affidavit for public school immunizations, incorporating a section that expressly informs parents or guardians of possible outcomes of not vaccinating their children. The affidavit language is spelled out in existing state code and the affidavit itself must be notarized.
The section would spell out that should an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease in an area of the state be declared, any unvaccinated child could be temporarily prohibited from attending a public or charter school to prevent the spread of the disease. In that instance, even if an unvaccinated child doesn’t show symptoms, he or she could be barred from attending school until the declaration is lifted.
Read more about this proposal here.