Video surfaces over student vaccination dispute with CUSD
A video taken by a local mother who refuses to vaccinate her children has gone viral in recent days, putting the state’s policies in the spotlight.
Porsha Rasheed’s video, which was posted to her personal Facebook page on November 8, shows a tense encounter with a CUSD employee and school resource officer Jennifer Ganino.
The video shows Ms. Rasheed filming a conversation with the CUSD employee as the officer watches. The video starts with CUSD employee Felipe Delvasto asking Ms. Rasheed if she had the “immunization records.”
Ms. Rasheed asks for his name, and he identifies himself. She repeatedly says she doesn’t know who he is, asks what his position is and what he’s there for. Ms. Rasheed then says, “They already know what I have.” He asks again for the immunization records and says he already gave his name.
After about 30 seconds, Mr. Delvasto thanks Ms. Rasheed, as he and Officer Ganino turn to leave. Ms. Rasheed follows.
“I don’t know who this man is, he came with the Claremont police department to make sure, I guess, to treat my six-year-old like a criminal, because, I don’t know, to make sure he doesn’t have immunizations,” she said. “I am recording this because this is harassment.”
She later asks Officer Ganino, who by then has already entered her police car, for her name. Officer Ganino backs up to drive away.
“The officer refused to give her name. The officer refused to give her card,” Ms. Rasheed narrates in the video. “I have no idea who these people are, and this is a form of harassment.”
Ms. Rasheed claims in the video’s caption that she was being set up by CUSD to be arrested, saying she was met in front of a motel when walking her child to the bus stop.
“I called the police department to make a complaint for harassment and was told by the sergeant that me not giving my kids shots is a criminal act and that I will be arrested,” she wrote. “This is why they were at the bus stop to try to incriminate me by me attempting to them [sic] that my son does not have any shots.”
In a statement, the city of Claremont said the school official had requested the officer to accompany him to “keep the peace” and deliver information in a peaceful manner.
“The police department has no involvement in the administrative procedure and/or decisions of the school district,” the statement read. “This is not a criminal matter. The police department spoke with the parent on Wednesday afternoon and she is aware that this is not a criminal situation and there is no risk of being arrested in this matter.”
Ms. Rasheed elected not to talk to the COURIER, but Terry Roark, the California advocacy director for the National Vaccine Information Center, spoke on her behalf.
“I was appalled,” Ms. Roark said. “I was appalled that a mother would be confronted in the public square by a school official accompanied by a police officer in a patrol car with a demand to disclose her child’s private medical information.”
Ms. Roark shared that Ms. Rasheed has chosen not to vaccine her kids due to her religious beliefs, and that one of her children was “vaccine-injured,” meaning the child was reportedly disabled by a vaccine.
The video has garnered a lot of attention from the anti-vaccination community, racking up over 250,000 views and over 6,000 shares. It was also posted on sites such as Alex Jones’ Infowars.com.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Bateman could not comment on personal cases involving CUSD children, but did say that as of January 2016, “personal belief exemptions” (PBE) from vaccinations are no longer valid in California.
This is because of Senate Bill 277, which prohibits schools from unconditionally admitting students who have not been immunized against various diseases—including measles, mumps and pertussis—unless they have a medical exemption from a doctor.
Essentially, Mr. Bateman said, “The laws regarding personal beliefs are no longer honored.”
Ms. Roark characterized SB 277 as an infringement on Ms. Rasheed’s constitutional rights to religious freedom as well as the California constitution’s right to liberty of conscience.
There are currently 168 kids in the CUSD who currently have waivers—136 of which have personal belief exemptions, according to Mr. Bateman. The remaining 32 have medical exemptions.
Throughout kindergarten to sixth grade, 96 CUSD students have personal belief exemptions, as well as 40 students from seventh grade to 12th grade, Mr. Bateman said. There are no PBEs at El Roble Intermediate School because SB 277 has been in effect for the past two school years, he added.
According to SB 227, students on waivers who have already been enrolled in Claremont schools when the law was passed have until seventh grade for kids in kindergarten and elementary school to get vaccinated. Students with PBEs who were in seventh grade and above when the law was passed are grandfathered in and are not required to undergo further vaccinations, Ms. Roark said.
For homeless and foster kids going to Claremont schools, there is an extra 30-day window to get the proper paperwork in order, according to Mr. Bateman. The school district works with these families to find their paperwork, usually in different districts, or work with third-party clinics to get vaccinations or medical exemptions.
Ms. Roark did not know if Ms. Rasheed was aware of that provision, but noted she may not have the ability to see a doctor to get an exemption.
“You’re in a position where your children are going to risk being injured like your older child was because you don’t have the money to see a doctor,” she said.
[Correction: A previous version of this article erroneously claimed students who were in seventh grade and above when SB 277 was passed have until 12th grade to be vaccinated.]