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November 23, 2010

JHS students held in gym for not receiving vaccinations

School continues to offer shots to students for free

JEFFERSONVILLE — Jeffersonville High School students who had not turned in proof of immunizations were kept out of class Monday and Tuesday, spending the days in the school gymnasium.

Principal James Sexton said there were more than 300 students who were taken to the gymnasium until their parents or record-keepers provided proof of vaccination or gave permission for their on-site nurses to provide shots for free.

“Those kids just had procrastinated,” Sexton said.

As of early Tuesday afternoon, about 35 to 40 students were still being held in the gym. Sexton said any student who has not updated their records by next Monday when they return from Thanksgiving break will have to stay in the gym.

“We’ll continue until we have 100 percent,” Sexton said.

New immunization requirements were enacted in Indiana this year for students in prekindergarten, kindergarten and grades six through 12. The new vaccinations include two doses for chickenpox and one dose each for tetanus and meningitis for grades six through 12.

All students were supposed to have the updated vaccinations as of the beginning of the 2010-11 school year.

“It started out about three months ago with about 1,400 students that needed some updating and record changes, and we worked it down to where we’re in pretty good shape,” Sexton said.

Sexton said three letters were sent to parents informing them about the requirements and that their children would be pulled from class. He said there were two clinics at the school last week offering free vaccinations.

“Unfortunately, they are missing class time. We’re trying to make sure they get work to do and get caught up, but this is one of the few ways we can get their attention, and it’s worked,” Sexton said.

At least some parents were upset that their children were taken out of class. Sexton said they apologize if they lost any records, a complaint of at least one parent who called The Evening News upset about what she called a “kidnapping” of her child.

He said the measure was important because flu season is coming. He said one school in Northern Indiana was forced to close for several weeks because of an outbreak of chicken pox, and he wants to avoid that outcome.

Some parents have wondered if keeping all the students in one room could actually cause any viruses to spread more quickly. Sexton said they had nurses with the students and that none appeared to be ill.

The problem of students not having updated vaccinations is statewide, although Sexton said he was not aware of any other schools removing children from class.

Other schools may have to adopt similar measures. Clarksville Superintendent Kim Knott said the district may eventually have to consider doing the same as JHS because the state has given a deadline to have all students’ vaccinations up-to-date.

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