With the passing of L.D. 798 into a law, which is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 1, Maine became one of only five states in our nation to enforce government-mandated childhood vaccination for access to K-12 education. The law removed long-standing religious exemptions which previously allowed parents to make personal medical decisions for their children and opt-out of a medical intervention which does not comply with their personal religious beliefs.

When the law takes effect at the start of our next school year it is estimated that more than 10,000 Maine children will be left without any access to “public” education (including remote learning). Private schools are not impacted by the law, so those students whose families have the means to fund private education will have an advantage over children of lesser means who will be denied access to school and all school-sponsored extra-curricular enrichment activities.

As we rise to acknowledge the call in our country and in our state for equity, diversity, and inclusion, it seems to many of us that Maine has taken a bold misstep to embrace and enforce a law which results in the segregation of some children from their peers, denying them equal access to publicly funded education because of their religious beliefs.

In 45 other states in our nation, all children have equal access to education regardless of their race, gender, religion, disability, or personal medical status.

As we close out a school year during which children have been in school during a deadly global pandemic, all of them equally unvaccinated, it may be time to reflect.

Are all Maine children worthy of an education?

Heather Connolly
Gorham

 


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