- The Washington Times - Friday, October 1, 2004

D.C. public school officials yesterday referred 434 students to truancy court after they failed to provide updated immunization records after 30 days of school. Officials reminded their parents that they could face fines and jail time.

“We’re going to court,” said Ralph Neal, assistant schools superintendent. “It’s been a whole month.”

Mr. Neal said the D.C. Compulsory School Attendance Amendment Act of 1990 states that principals must refer students to truancy court if they fail to provide proof of immunizations by Oct. 1. He also said Superintendent Clifford B. Janey told principals yesterday to begin the legal process.

“Parents, if convicted, could be fined $100 or [spend] up to 10 days in jail,” Mr. Neal said.

The biggest problems remain in middle, junior and high schools, which have 379 of the students. Among them, 285 are in senior high schools and 94 are in junior highs or middle schools.

The remaining 55 students are in elementary schools and special education centers. The District has 60,799 students in about 200 schools, including specialty schools and programs.

Officials estimated in mid-August that about 5,000 students were still without the mandatory shots and said they would know more when school started Sept. 1. They reported in mid-September that the number had been reduced to 1,190 students.

The school system in August 2003 had about 11,000 students without shots, which means the number of noncompliant students was reduced by more than 50 percent this summer, said Dr. Karyn Berry of the city’s Department of Health.

The students who did not receive their shots or provide up-to-date proof were allowed inside schools but were kept in designated areas such as auditoriums or classrooms.

The required shots are DPT (for diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus), OPV (oral polio vaccine), MMR (measles, mumps and rubella), HIB (haemophilus influenza type B), HepB (hepatitis B), and varicella immunizations, if students have not had chicken pox.

“We’ve worked collaboratively with parents, and we are pleased that more than 60,000 parents have worked along with us,” Mr. Neal said. “But we have [about] 400 students [without shots.] And the law states they must be immunized. Students not attending school are truant. Being a truant means that you are in violation of the law. We need to hold everyone accountable, and we need the cooperation of parents.”

The District has improved the situation, in part, by offering free shots at clinics.

Vera Jackson, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Health, said six clinics remain open, and no appointment is necessary.

“We’re still working very hard to make sure everybody gets immunized,” she said.

Elementary School in Southeast.

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