School justified in taking drastic action to enforce vaccine requirement

Kris Long, Opinions Editor

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Dec. 2. That’s the deadline for all Manhattan High students to get up to date on their vaccinations or face what the USD 383 school district is dubbing “exclusion” from all school activities, including physically attending classes. 

Over the summer, the school board approved measures to ensure that all USD 383 students are properly immunized before they can interact with and potentially harm other students. Currently, 318 students could be “excluded” from MHS if they don’t show proof of compliance by the deadline. 265 of these students specifically are non-compliant for the meningitis for new state-level guidelines required students over the age of 16 to have the meningitis vaccine. The mandate states that all students entering 7th grade and 11th grade need to have updated meningitis vaccines. There will be exceptions for students for religious and medical reasons.

It is the opinion of The Mentor Editorial Board that, while these measures are harsh, they are necessary to keep MHS students safe. However, the school could further publicize the change in the requirements in order to make sure students are aware. 

It is the first responsibility of the school to educate students in a safe environment. An environment where students are not immunized to a deadly disease that is entirely preventable is not up to that standard. It’s not fair to students who can’t get vaccinated for health reasons to be put at risk by students who simply don’t have the vaccine, whether this is because they weren’t aware they didn’t have it or because they couldn’t be bothered to go out and get it. In the same way the school doesn’t allow weapons into the building, they shouldn’t allow this pointless danger onto school campus or into school sponsored events. 

While the school’s measures may seem drastic to some, it is evident by the fact that 318 students are not up to date with their vaccinations that something dramatic needs to be done to call attention to the issue. If the district continues to send letters to students and families, they’re unlikely to gain ground on this urgent problem. Taking students out of classes will make it impossible for them to continue to ignore the guidelines, guaranteeing students who don’t object based upon religion or health related issues comply. 

The school is not denying education to those who aren’t vaccinated. Students will be able to keep up with teachers via email or Canvas. However, this is a much more difficult task than just going to school. This will hopefully provide an extremely strong incentive to get vaccinated. For those who do not intend to comply, online school through MVA is always an option. 

There’s no reason for students to not get the vaccine. Every effort has been made by the school’s administration to make non-compliant students and families and every opportunity given to students to get it. 

The one thing the school could still do to justify such action is to better publicise it. Simple things like putting the deadline in morning announcements would make it significantly harder to miss. The administration should also speak to non-compliant students face-to-face in order to make sure students understand the situation, because if students’ parents aren’t complying, students need to be given the chance to advocate for themselves. 

Enforcing state policy will make MHS a safer place, if inconvenient for some. Students — with the help of school administrators — have had every opportunity to be vaccinated, for their own safety and others.