BATON ROUGE — The Senate Education Committee unanimously advanced two bills Thursday that would relax vaccine requirements for K-12 students.
State Rep. Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, wrote both bills. Colleges and universities are no longer included in the bills after amendments by the committee.
House Bill 182 would prohibit Covid-19 vaccinations as a condition of enrollment or continued enrollment in any public or private K-12 schools.
House Bill 399 would require schools to provide exemption information for any type of vaccines.
In current law, students may receive an exemption when entering a school from vaccinations through a doctor’s note or written dissent from parents. The proposed law also would allow this exemption for students already enrolled at the school.
Several parents came forward to say that their school districts had not provided exemption information to parents online or in person.
Doris Brown from the Louisiana Department of Health said an all-out effort is being made to educate parents on their right to exempt their children from vaccines.
Both the Department of Education and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education supported the bill. However, Ethan Melancon, a department representative, said information about exemption forms were sent to all schools and made publicly available.
Kaitlyn Joshua, a Louisiana resident and mother, said this bill would encourage exemption instead of vaccination. She said it would decrease vaccine use and recommended that it be amended to also require information on why vaccines are important.
Proponents of the bill to provide Covid vaccine requirements maintained that it is not fair for unvaccinated students to be sent home when vaccinated students could still be transmitting COVID.
Louisiana does not require Covid vaccines for school; however, individual schools may add it to their vaccine schedule.
Opponents of the bill said that parents already are allowed to receive exemptions for their children.
“So this bill is really unnecessary, and only serves to set a precedent of outlawing safe and effective vaccines from being added to the recommended school schedule,” Joshua said.
Both bills were amended to exclude colleges and universities from the changes. However, any students enrolled in fully online classes to be exempt from vaccination requirements.