A Rockland County federal judge has denied a request that would have allowed 44 unvaccinated children to return to school amid an “unprecedented measles outbreak,” according to a report.
US District Court Judge Vincent Briccetti declined to issue a temporary injunction in White Plains federal court Tuesday — preventing the students from attending the Green Meadow Waldorf School in Chestnut Ridge for at least three weeks, CBS News reported.
“The plaintiffs have not demonstrated that public interest weighs in favor of granting an injunction,” Briccetti argued, according to The Journal News.
Briccetti made his ruling during a court appearance by Michael Sussman, the lawyer representing the students’ parents — who have filed a lawsuit against the Rockland Health Department and its commissioner to challenge an order that restricts the unvaccinated children from attending school, the outlet reported.
The lawsuit declares that the Rockland County Health Commissioner Dr. Patricia Schnabel Ruppert’s order both violates the families’ religious objections to vaccinations — and is unnecessary because the measles cases, for the most part, have been confined to insular Hasidic Jewish communities.
But the judge told Sussman his case might be better received in state court — and no future court date was set.
“It’s a tough situation and I feel bad about it … but I don’t feel I have the authority to do this,” Briccetti said.
“There is a degree of parochialism that exists with elected judges,” Sussman replied.
One parent, Beatrice Burgis, told CBS she agreed with the judge’s ruling.
“I believe that he’s trying to mitigate a potential further outbreak and he’s trying to keep everybody safe,” Burgis said.
But the affected parents were distraught.
“Preventing my child from being with his class, his teacher, his classroom, has had a significant social and psychological impact,” one mom of a 4-year old preschooler told The Journal News, her voice shaky. “He is confused, given his young age, about why he isn’t allowed on his campus.”
Rockland County is in the midst of the longest measles outbreak in the state since the virus was eliminated from the US in 2000 — with 145 cases reported since October and three more suspected cases under investigation, according to the report.
The outbreak has mostly affected the Orthodox Jewish community in Spring Valley, Monsey and New Square, prompting Ruppert to impose an early December order that schools in those ZIP codes with vaccination rates under 95 percent must keep unvaccinated students from attending.
Sussman filed court papers that indicate that Green Meadow’s students are “97 percent immune from the disease by all accounts” — but the county’s law department said the school’s vaccination rate was around 33 percent at the time of the December order, the paper reported. Since then, it has reportedly risen to about 56 percent.
“We have had success, but this case is not over,” Rockland County Attorney Thomas Humbach said in a statement issued to The Journal News. “While no one enjoys the fact that these kids are out of school, these orders have worked; they have helped prevent the measles outbreak from spreading to this school population.”
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