Student immunization laws in Wisconsin

Schools can send children who are not immunized home during outbreak

The law surrounding vaccination requirements at schools is in the spotlight after a recent Supreme Court decision.

The ruling in a New York case said a school has the right to make children who are not immunized stay at home when there is a vaccine-preventable disease outbreak at school, including chickenpox, measles and pertussis.

That ruling falls in line with what Wisconsin allows. Just like New York, Wisconsin school districts have the right to tell students who are not immunized to stay home if there is an outbreak at school.

However, one father says it should be the parents’ choice to remove their kids from school because they are the ones who chose not to immunize their kids in the first place.

Marty Lorentz is a father of two boys, one is 15 and one is 11. For each kid, Lorentz has to fill out an immunization sheet.

“I just got something the other day, because my youngest son is going to go to middle school,” said Lorentz.

“They write in their student immunization record,” said Bryany Weigel, a public health nurse with La Crosse County Health Department.

However, Lorentz checks the box at the bottom.

“I would certainly mark off the boxes that allowed us to waive the vaccinations,” said Lorentz.

“In Wisconsin, people are allowed to not be vaccinated or sign a waiver for religious reasons, personal reasons and health reasons,” said Weigel.

After careful consideration, Lorentz and his wife decided not to immunize their children.

“My wife and I did a lot of research, obviously it was ongoing, and when we came down to it we thought the benefits of getting the vaccinations were not outweighed by the potential downsides,” said Lorentz.

According to Wisconsin state law, incompletely immunized students may be excluded from school if an outbreak of one of these diseases occurs.

“This is something coming from the state level saying we are trying to protect our population and this is one way we know how to protect them,” said Weigel.

The state even regulates how the schools handle an outbreak.

“Because for each disease, what constitutes as an outbreak is different,” said Weigel.

For example, children who are not immunized would have to stay home from school if there is one case of the measles, but it would take two cases of pertussis in a 30-day period to be considered an outbreak.

Although Lorentz knows the school is just trying to protect its student, he wouldn’t approve of his children being sent home.

“If it is a concern about my kids being the ones that are unvaccinated then they are the ones taking the chance, and if we feel that it is a reasonable chance, then I certainly think that is our decision to make,” said Lorentz.

Sometimes parents choose to immunize their children for some diseases but not others. So in that case, their children could still be subject to being sent home if there is any type of outbreak.            

Click here for more information about the Wisconsin school immunization requirements.