Memphis woman says daughter nearly missed virtual school because of missing immunization

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A Memphis mother is upset tonight after she says her daughter was going to have to miss virtual school because she didn’t have one of her immunizations.

It’s virtual lesson time at the kitchen table for 12-year-old Zaarodia Gates and her sister.

“They do this faithfully every day,” said mom Zaavonne Jones. “They enjoy doing it and they do the very best that they can.”

But Jones says her daughter almost lost access to her online lessons from Dexter Middle School.

She says she got a call in November saying Zaarodia is missing an immunization needed for seventh grade. She called it the seventh-grade shot.

“Instantly I called Le Bonheur because my child is ill,” Jones said. “She has a lung disease, she has severe asthma and abnormal arteries in her heart valve.”

She says Zaarodia is in a special program with Le Bonheur and couldn’t get an appointment for the immunization until February. She tried finding other places to get the shot sooner but with insurance issues says nothing worked out.

So, she called the school and district to explain and was told there are no exceptions.

“Rules are rules and your child hasn’t had the shot, so your child will be out of school for a month and a half and she told me just deal with it. Let it be,” Jones said. “I was told that multiple children are right now, as we’re speaking, out of school because of this shot and a lot of different clinics are closed due to the coronavirus.”

Eventually the mom has been able to work something out with the county health department to get the shot, but Jones worries about other families.

“And I feel like for them to be pressuring this issue and our children are at home, it’s causing a lot of people to get sick that don’t even know it,” Jones said.

Zaarodia has plans to be a doctor. Her mother calls access to classes crucial.

If other students are in a similar situation, she hopes they don’t fall behind.

“It’s failing our children. If we’re already struggling to be at school at home and then you out of school because of a shot, that’s failing us. That’s failing us really bad.”

Shelby County Schools released a statement on the issue, saying in part, “State law and District policy requires all students to be immunization compliant to attend school. The state informed SCS last summer that students must be immunization compliant if they attend either in person or virtually.

 Read the full statement below:

State law and District policy requires all students to be immunization compliant to attend school. The state informed SCS last summer that students must be immunization compliant if they attend either in person or virtually. The only exception to the state’s immunization law requirements for attendance is a religious or medical exemption on file for the student.

Parents received numerous updates this summer regarding state requirements for immunizations and immunization requirements were posted on our website. SCS also sent parents an email alert for upcoming 7th grade students reminding them of the state requirement for the additional immunization requirement for that grade (Tdap booster).

Schools have been asked to complete an immunization audit that is conducted annually to ensure all students are compliant. If after reviewing the record the student is noncompliant, the parent is given the First Immunization Notice informing them of the state requirement and that the parent has 15 days to get the student immunized. If the parent does not provide the school the required immunization documentation after 10 days, the school issues a second Final Immunization Notice giving the parent an additional 10 days to provide required documentation. The second notice informs the parent that if they do not return the required documentation to school (now 25 days) the student will be withdrawn. In the past we only gave the parent 10 days to provide documentation before the student withdrawn, but this year we extended from 15 initial days and then an additional 10 days to give the parent every opportunity to make the student compliant before they are withdrawn.

Both notices sent to parents by the school include several resources to the parent where the child can receive the required immunizations with several of the resources free of charge. SCS has partnered with Christ Community Health Services, and they will provide free immunizations to our students if the parent cannot pay for the required immunizations.

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