SEVERE WX : Air Stagnation Advisory View Alerts

Judge rules against unvaccinated teen who sued health department over chickenpox policy

A Kentucky judge rejected the claims made by a teenager who sued his local health department for temporarily barring students at his school who aren't immune...

Posted: Apr 4, 2019 6:41 AM

A Kentucky judge rejected the claims made by a teenager who sued his local health department for temporarily barring students at his school who aren't immune against chickenpox from attending classes and participating in extracurricular activities.

Last month, the local health department implemented the policy after an outbreak of chickenpox affected 32 people, which is 13% of the student body, at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart/Assumption Academy in Walton, Kentucky.

The student, Jerome Kunkel refuses the chickenpox vaccine, citing his Christian faith.

In response to the outbreak, the Northern Kentucky Health Department announced that all students at the school who don't have "proof of vaccination or proof of immunity against chickenpox will not be allowed to attend school until 21 days after the onset of rash for the last ill student or staff member." The school's sports and extracurricular activities were canceled to avoid spreading the illness to other schools and places.

Kunkel, a senior at the school, filed a lawsuit over the health department's decision, especially because it affects his basketball season.

"The fact that I can't finish my senior year of basketball, like our last couple games is pretty devastating. I mean you go through four years of high school, playing basketball, but you look forward to your senior year," he told CNN affiliate WLWT last month.

None of the basketball team members were vaccinated for chickenpox, the school's principal had told a health official, according to the judge's ruling obtained by CNN affiliate WXIX.

Only 18% of the school's students are fully vaccinated, a school official told the local health department. One of its students had been treated at Cincinnati Children's Hospital with joint pain and difficulty moving limbs, and was found to have chickenpox, as well as symptoms of a superinfection.

Chickenpox is a very contagious disease that causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness and fever, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can spread by touching or breathing in virus particles. It can be especially serious for babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

In late February, Kunkel was told he couldn't attend or play any upcoming basketball games because test results indicated that he was not immune to chickenpox. Kunkel and his father told WLWT that he was being discriminated against because of religious beliefs.

Kunkel had argued that missing weeks of school may have lifelong consequences and alleged that the health department had "acted in retaliation for his exercise of his religious beliefs." The health department responded that it had ordered the temporary ban because of the chickenpox outbreak, not because he wasn't vaccinated.

After a hearing on Monday, Boone County Circuit Judge James Schrand rejected Kunkel's request to prevent the health department from enforcing its school and activities ban.

The judge rejected many of his claims and pointed out that one of his parents had signed a state form that allows rejection of immunizations on religious grounds, that also notes the child may not be allowed to attend school for weeks if there is an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease.

In response to the judge's ruling Tuesday, the Northern Kentucky Health Department said it was "pleased with the Court's careful and thorough review of the evidence and legal issues posed in this case."

"The Court's ruling ... underscores the critical need for Public Health Departments to preserve the safety of the entire community, and in particular the safety of those members of our community who are most susceptible to the dire consequences when a serious, infectious disease such as varicella, is left unabated and uncontrolled," it stated.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 390066

Reported Deaths: 5142
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah60179836
Washington41910395
Marion39824506
Clackamas32722377
Lane30033354
Jackson24808357
Deschutes23460185
Umatilla15098180
Linn14610179
Douglas13323287
Josephine10134242
Yamhill9717142
Klamath9002145
Polk8162100
Benton608338
Malheur592086
Coos5600106
Columbia429255
Jefferson419366
Lincoln360752
Union338654
Crook332356
Wasco314946
Clatsop261235
Baker219133
Tillamook216345
Hood River211937
Morrow197125
Curry191039
Harney119532
Grant108515
Lake104216
Wallowa75413
Sherman1903
Gilliam1854
Wheeler1141
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 5078594

Reported Deaths: 74367
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles152627227138
San Diego4050994325
Riverside3873955358
San Bernardino3742565958
Orange3341765710
Sacramento1682422428
Kern1575251791
Fresno1566772252
Santa Clara1519051920
Alameda1251221504
San Joaquin1075271834
Ventura1039691190
Contra Costa1036861046
Stanislaus914651415
Tulare860701095
San Francisco56866669
San Mateo56265629
Monterey52477626
Solano47644356
Santa Barbara47268549
Merced45052667
Sonoma43127412
Placer42120470
Imperial38446773
Kings35204364
San Luis Obispo31463358
Madera26180311
Shasta26082444
Butte25441313
Santa Cruz22209224
Yolo21547257
Marin18447249
El Dorado18294166
Sutter14559186
Napa13419104
Yuba1075689
Tehama10275130
Humboldt10143118
Nevada10014105
Mendocino856097
Lassen796256
San Benito780778
Tuolumne772390
Lake7039110
Amador577066
Siskiyou474555
Glenn456636
Calaveras441288
Del Norte375442
Colusa325319
Inyo256846
Plumas19367
Mono18604
Mariposa159818
Trinity99617
Modoc7655
Unassigned2700
Sierra2180
Alpine1080
Out of CA00
Medford
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 40°
Feels Like: 44°
Brookings
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 45°
Crater Lake
Mostly Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 44°
Grants Pass
Cloudy
44° wxIcon
Hi: 54° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 44°
Klamath Falls
Cloudy
26° wxIcon
Hi: 52° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 26°
Stagnant and dry weather continue all week
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events