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August 14, 2017

Colorado parents no longer have to violate their conscience.

Agency Takes a Shot at Following the Law This Time

The Colorado Department of Education (DOE) has announced that parents exempting their schoolchildren from state immunization requirements no longer have to use their intrusive “official” form.

Mike Donnelly by Mike Donnelly Contact attorney for Colorado

The change marks the culmination of a year of reform efforts by groups such as Home School Legal Defense Association and Christian Home Educators of Colorado, as well as concerned citizens and legislators. We especially appreciate the work of state Senator Kevin Lundberg in championing this cause.

Your Beliefs Don’t Matter

The controversy erupted last August when the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) changed the method by which parents could opt their kids out of immunization requirements, and they did so in a way that was deeply offensive and unconstitutional.

The CDPHE’s then-mandatory form required parents to affirm a number of statements that may not have aligned with their personal and religious beliefs. These included the sentence, “Failure to follow the advice of a physician, registered nurse, physician’s assistant, or public health official who has recommended vaccines may endanger my child’s/my health or life and others who come into contact with my child/me.”

Compelled speech of this sort violates the First Amendment.

To protect our members’ rights, HSLDA considered suing the CDPHE, even as we launched a petition drive that garnered 13,000 signatures and attempted to work with the state.

By September, officials had agreed to change the form so that it no longer compelled parents to assent to certain statements.

The Law is Not a Suggestion

Still, another problem remained. According to Colorado’s homeschooling statute, state officials lack the authority to require a particular form for parents opting out of immunization requirements.

We advised homeschooling parents that they were not obligated to use the form, but that they should keep either a signed statement of exemption or vaccination records with their homeschool documents.

Senator Lundberg, a longtime homeschooling parent, echoed this position as he pressed the CDPHE to change its policy so that it actually conformed to the law. At one point he threatened to use his committee influence to delay the budget unless officials came to terms.

With the DOE’s new memo, our advocacy has been vindicated.

To quote the document, for parents who wish “to exempt their child from the school immunization requirements … [e]ither the use of the official certificate or a parental statement is acceptable.” The notice must be submitted annually.

The Courage to Stand Up

We live in a time when government bureaucracies more often than not are able to exceed their mandate at both state and federal levels, imposing unwarranted and unreasonable restrictions on citizens and groups. Government agencies have significant resources, and it is often difficult for citizens to resist these often excessive regulatory demands.

That is why we are so grateful to have allies like Senator Lundberg—who, for his part, praised individual activists for resisting overbearing bureaucrats.

“The credit I would give the most to is the parents who had the courage to stand up to the local school district and say, ‘that’s not what the law says,’” Lundberg told HSLDA last week. “Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to enforce the law.”

Lundberg has declared his candidacy for state treasurer. If he is as successful as treasurer as he was in holding the CDPHE accountable, Colorado’s finances will be in good hands. You can learn more by visiting his website.

For more information on last year’s back-and-forth regarding the CDPHE’s form, click here. Please consider joining HSLDA and supporting CHEC, your statewide homeschool organization. Only by working together can we can defend our freedoms from unwarranted intrusions.