Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy asks Gov. Jerry Brown to give students more time to either prove they've received a whooping cough vaccine or to get vaccinated, a requirement of a new California law.
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/qYfACD
Mario Arceo, 17, gets whooping cough shot at Huntington Park High School. Thousands of Los Angeles Unified students who began school at year-round campuses recently, had not met a new deadline for getting the whooping cough vaccine. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)July 14, 2011 - Local education officials are backing emergency state legislation that would give students more time to get vaccinated for whooping cough, a new requirement for California students in grades 7 through 12.
The bill would give students 30 days after their academic year begins either to obtain the vaccine or provide proof of vaccination.
"The existing legislation, which went into effect July 1, has not provided sufficient time for school districts, local health authorities, and parents to comply with its requirements," Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. John Deasy wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown. "At LAUSD, we learned this firsthand."
The hope is to avert problems that emerged when 8,700 students at five Los Angeles Unified campuses started attending classes on July 5. Most of those students were unable to provide proof that they had been vaccinated.
Those campuses are among a proportionally small number that operate year-round, and they offered a window into what could happen in the fall. At Huntington Park High, 76% of the 2,420 students had not met the requirement. A week later — and after a brief grace period — some 600 students at the five campuses can't go to school, even after the district compromised by accepting permission slips for students to receive the shot at school.
Among schools starting in August or September, about 35% of students have submitted proof of vaccination, among more than 234,000 secondary students in the state's largest school system.
"I am gravely concerned that without the extension, the first week of classes at those schools will be chaotic," Deasy wrote, urging Brown to sign the legislation if it passes as expected. "At the same time, the loss of state money due to students being sent home will cause a further financial burden to a district that has already been devastated by budget cuts."
L.A. Unified loses about $31 a day for every student who isn't in class.
The district briefly ran out of the vaccine, which is delivered in the form of the Tdap booster shot. Schools are now well-supplied — at least until much larger numbers of students return, said Dr. Kimberly Uyeda, L.A. Unified's director of student medical services.
Uyeda added that a majority of students are likely to have been vaccinated by the time school starts, and she urged families to submit proof before the first day of school.
Whooping cough: How not to get tough with schools
Opinion LA :“Observations and provocations from The Times' Opinion staff” by Karin Klein | http://bit.ly/pZ0SHa
July 13, 2011 | 4:48 pm - The law was passed, the parents were notified, then notified again, and yet again. Vaccination clinics were opened at schools. Yet is anyone surprised that the July 1 deadline for whooping-cough booster shots passed with a huge number of the affected students -- seventh to 12th graders -- still not vaccinated?
After California reported more than 9,000 cases of whooping cough last year -- numbers also are up this year -- the state passed legislation requiring the booster shots for older students. The preteens and teens are supposed to have their proof of vaccination in hand on the very first day of school, or be sent home until they get it.
How's that working out? The state got a whiff of the answer when several thousand students who are still on year-round schedules in Los Angeles Unified School District showed up for class last week. The majority lacked the vaccinations, and the school district didn't have nearly enough of the booster shots to inoculate all of them. Parents ignore the memos and phone calls, figure they'll get to it ... sometime. Or they work two jobs and don't have time for this. Or they've moved. At this point, 600 students are staying home, learning nothing. But that's nothing compared with the more than 34,000 students on school schedules that start in mid-August. Close to 12,000 of them haven't been vaccinated yet. Then there are the 250,000 students in those grades who will show up in the fall...
Superintendent John Deasy is hoping the Legislature passes -- and Gov. Jerry Brown signs -- urgency legislation that would give schools 30 days from the first day a student shows up for school to make sure they get vaccinated. It makes sense, more sense than the original law. How can schools make sure students are being vaccinated on time if they don't need the proof until the day they show up for school? It may sound like good old tough, no-excuses legislation, but it doesn't mesh with the way life really works.
Meanwhile, kids aren't in class and schools stand to lose funding based on average daily attendance.
We've waited months for the law to take effect. Would a 30-day grace period make that huge a difference in whooping-cough rates? I doubt it.
SB 614 amended 7-12
Photo: LAUSD nurses Jocelyn Lotho, left, and Mija Goldsmith give whooping cough shots to students at Huntington Park High School. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times