Bills to shield unvaccinated students advance in Louisiana Legislature

Parents may soon be able to sue schools that don’t accept vaccine exemptions

By: - May 10, 2022 6:31 pm
Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine

Bottles of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Louisiana schools may soon have to change how they handle vaccinations and vaccine exemptions among their students. Multiple bills that would weaken a school’s ability to enforce a vaccine mandate passed Tuesday in the House Education Committee.

House Bill 531, authored by Beryl Amedee, R-Houma, would allow parents of unvaccinated children to sue a school if it doesn’t accept their child’s vaccine exemption. The bill passed in a 6-5 vote.

Amedee said she has been getting calls from upset parents of unvaccinated students whose schools don’t allow them inside classrooms. 

“A state agency is supposed to enforce (the vaccine exemption), and the legal remedy is when they don’t, a parent can sue,” Amedee said.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill argued the legislation is unnecessary because parents are already allowed to sue schools that don’t accept their vaccine exemptions.

“There’s really no reason for this legislation because it already exists,” said Rep. Barbara Frieberg, who voted against Amedee’s bill.

House Concurrent Resolution 1, authored by Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Baton Rouge, would prevent school administrators from removing unvaccinated kids from class during an outbreak, leaving that power solely with the state health officer. 

The bill advanced on a 7-2 vote.

Ivey said he doesn’t want school administrators, particularly in higher education, to enforce their own policies in the event of an outbreak. LSU, for example, defines an outbreak as more than two cases, he said.

“The politics associated potentially with a request coming from a school administrator to the state health officer is, in my opinion, very different from (when) the state health officer .. on his own… issues such an order,” Ivey said.

The committee also passed a bill that would prohibit schools from administering vaccines on campus unless the school has a health clinic on site and students have parental permission. Permission would have to be granted in written and oral form. The bill passed by a 7-4 vote.

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JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.