Norris school committee explores overriding exemption to state flu vaccine mandate

  • Marquee sign at Norris School in Southampton, Monday, April 27, 2020.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/1/2020 7:05:52 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — The William E. Norris School Committee is exploring whether it can override a religious exemption to the state’s mandate that children in schools or child care ages 6 months or older get a flu vaccine.

The matter was introduced by School Committee member Greg Bennett at a meeting last week, who said that parents interested in increasing vaccination rates at the school asked him to look into it.

He added that because the school won’t be able to provide six-foot distancing to all students if full in-person instruction resumes, vaccination rates are important to differentiate those suffering from COVID-19 from those suffering from the flu.

“The symptoms of flu mimic the same symptoms of COVID-19,” Bennett said.

The state’s mandate, which was announced last month and requires vaccination by Dec. 31, provides for both religious and medical exemptions. In addition to preschool students and students in K-12 education, the mandate applies to students in college or graduate school full-time under 30 years old, and all full- and part-time health science students. Students who attend college online and never visit campus and homeschooled students are also exempt from the requirement, but students in remote learning school districts are not.

The Norris committee asked legal counsel to look into the matter of the religious exemption, as well as whether the mandate should also apply to school employees.

“That’s what we’re waiting on,” School Committee Chair Jon Lumbra said.

Bennett said that the committee might be able to make a motion that would be superseded by state law, but would make a statement on the importance of vaccination.

The committee is set to take up the matter again at its Sept. 9 meeting.

Bera Dunau can be reached at

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