The Rochester Public Schools barred about 71 students from attending class, effective today, for failure to be immunized or provide paperwork filed for an exemption. Current immunizations for students are required under Minnesota state law.
The Rochester School Board voted on February 21 to take the action of removing students who had not met the requirements from classes. At the time of the board’s vote, there were 204 students who were not compliant with the law. The board’s resolution noted that the school district’s administration had made “significant efforts” to contact the families of students who were at risk for being taken out of school. Since the board’s vote, nearly 125 students provided the necessary documentation.
“Noncompliant students who reported to school today were not allowed to enter their classrooms,” Heather Nessler, a spokeswoman for the Rochester School District, said in a statement. “Each noncompliant student who arrived at school today will be sent home with a letter reiterating that he or she may not attend school until the required immunization or exemption documentation is submitted.”
In an email to the Rochester Post-Bulletin
, Nessler indicated that the district is working to help the students come into compliance with the law: "We want these students in our classrooms, so we continue to attempt to reach the families and explain the process.”
The state law, which applies to all public and private Minnesota schools, is nothing new – it has been on the books for decades. Under the law, students may get exceptions to the requirement for two reasons: medical or being a “conscientious objector,” which could include religious or philosophical beliefs.
Although the Minnesota Department of Health oversees public health issues, the state agency is not responsible for enforcing the immunization law.
“We leave it up to the local school districts to decide what’s going to be best for their community,” said Michael Schommer, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Health. “We don’t have a system for tracking what’s going on in each school system.”