I am so ANGRY right now. I have had one child with children pox about two weeks ago and three have it this weekend. We did not vaccinate them as conscientious objectors in the state of MN.
My children go to a very small, private, Montessori school where after my first son was diagnosed, an announcement was posted in the hallway. Fine. I get that. They post for lice. Strep throat, whatever. But when my next 3 kids came down with the virus, they sent a letter to EVERY FAMILY in the community saying that "Cases have been identified among students with a conscientious objection exemption to Varicella vaccine..."
Now, while I understand our names were not mentioned in the school-wide letter, it will be very difficult to figure out which 4 of the 125 children in the school had the chicken pox and therefore have a conscientious objection. They might as well have mentioned our names or put a scarlet "CO" on their chests.
I am miffed to say the least. You know how people can be when you decide not to vaccinate? Are my kids going to be shunned? Will we? What happened to our privacy? My kids healthcare privacy? Our healthcare decisions should not be made public and as far as I am concerned they made public.
I am co-chair of the parent association. My husband has been on the board. We donate a lot of $$ not to mention that we pay full tuition for 4 kids. We have loved this school. I am so saddened and upset.
What should I do?
I'm so sorry. We're in a K-12 private school (albeit more than 125 students) with CO forms lodged and if this happened to us, I'd be really angry as well. Like you said, it's not so much that they felt compelled to notify (which is reasonable), but that they had to put your kids' CO status in the letter and as you said, people can put two and two together.
If it were me, I'd write a letter to the school/meet with the administration and outline that you feel that your private health care information has been made public, and even though as you say, no names were mentioned, it's not that difficult for people to deduce who it is. Would they have written, "Cases have been identified among students with a MEDICAL exemption to Varicella vaccine..."? Or "Cases have been identified among students who missed their last booster of Varicella."? Would they have put that private medical info out as well or are they just making a point because it deals with a CO?
At the least, I'd ask the school to justify the need for including that information (like it makes a difference, a case is a case) and ask them also to review their policy of sharing private health information. I'm not sure what the privacy rules are in your state, but it might be worth having a look at the legislation to see what's permissible. Good luck.
Mother to DD#1 s/b @40w 2003 for unknown reasons; DD#2 nearly 10 years old; DS 6.5 years old
Why are daughters protected but not sons?
Thanks for the reply and for the support. I am so upset right now that I cannot imagine having a conversation with anyone about this in a civil manner. As I have thought about it more, I have come to the realization that the a letter to the entire community did not need to be sent at all. The school does not send a letter from the school nurse to the entire school community when influenza or another more serious virus circulates. Could it be that letters only get circulated when a vaccine is available? It certainly does not call out that families aren't vaccinated for the flu or sent back to school prematurely. And, there was NO need to mention that my children were neither vaccinated or unvaccinated or whether they had a CO or not. What purpose did that serve other than to make a point?
The irony of it is, one of my children was vaccinated for the chicken pox and still got it (granted not as badly). Our pro-vax pediatrician told us that 1 in every 5 vaccinated children will still get the chicken pox. Funny how that important piece of healthcare information never made the letter. If we were just concerned about the welfare of our kids, wouldn't we have mentioned that?
And really, my kids have been so much sicker in the past. They have really only been sick for 3-4 days for the CP. This was really a non-event for us compared to some of the other viruses that they brought home from school. The only difference is that you can "see" the virus in the form of a rash. It is crazy how in just one generation CP has gone from a fairly harmless childhood illness that most people considered a right of passage, to a panicked-epidemic that requires the school nurse to send a letter to the community and for the cases to be reported to the MN department of health.
Any additional insight is greatly appreciated. I could really use your support on this!
Well, I would be just as upset as you are, and no, there is no reason for them to announce your CO status. On the other hand, if I got a letter from my son's Montessori preschool (which is very small, fewer than 10 children total, I think), saying that there had been cases of Chicken Pox, I would turn cartwheels and try my best to find out who those children were so that I could arrange a pox party with them. So maybe you won't be so much shunned as sought out?
Yeah, I still think the school handled it badly.
When there were confirmed cases of pertussis at my kids' school back in 2011, no letter went home, just a notice up on the walls outside the classrooms that 1) yes, there were confirmed cases of pertussis about and 2) your child might have been exposed, so if concerned, go see your doctor. Nothing about anyone's vax or health status in the notices. My DD was in all likelihood exposed, but nothing came of it and I didn't run off to the GP for abx.
Like I mentioned, the only thing to do (once you're able to) is to meet with the school to discuss it. They will, no doubt, defend their actions and think that they did nothing wrong. I guess your task will be to point out that notifying people is one thing but sharing your family's private health info is another. Like I also mentioned, doing research into the legislation and what the policies are at other schools might also give you a good backing for your argument that the school revise their policies so this doesn't happen to someone else in future. I would make the case that their actions have the potential to make life difficult for your children if their peers (and more likely, their friends' parents) act unjustly towards them now.
I guess the other question is if you want to stay at a school that doesn't give a second thought to your privacy or how its actions will impact your children (now that they've been outed).
Mother to DD#1 s/b @40w 2003 for unknown reasons; DD#2 nearly 10 years old; DS 6.5 years old
Why are daughters protected but not sons?
Unless you signed something giving the the right to discuss your children's private medical histories, they violated your HIPPA rights by announcing your exemption. They only needed to announce that cases of chicken pox had occurred amongst the student body.
That said, if you sent any of your kids to school after the first one came down with it, you were pretty much knowingly infecting others in that school. Had there been someone at the school with a compromised immune system (either a student, or staff, or someone undergoing chemo who was picking up a child from school), you would have been knowingly infecting them. :(
Definite HIPPA violation and you can go online and print out the form and fax it in for investigation purposes if you choose to go that route. It takes forever to get through the links to get to the form (I swear they hide it on purpose) but they will assign someone to the case who will call you and then you receive a letter with the verdict. I did this because I was receiving numerous postcards in the mail, completely open, that stated something along the lines of 'your child may not be up to date on vaccines and you should contact your doctor to have this taken care of'' with a lovely Pfizer logo at the bottom. I asked around and NONE of my friends (who all vax, on time) got anything like this, and the fact that it was an open card for anyone to read made me livid. I thought it was the ped office and so I filed it *against* them under the pretense that they were using my child's private medical information for marketing purposes. Unfortunately I learned later on it was actually our insurance carrier (Anthem) who did this, and I missed the window for filling it (they give you like 9 or 12 mos from the occurrence). Learned this because they began robo calling and leaving messages about my child being behind and finally one of the mailings came with a small print section that sad I could call and opt out, which I did.
That's the link that will take you to the page with another link (ridiculous, I know) for the filing, although with the govt on strike sitting around with heir thumbs up their a$$es, the complaint portion of the site is down until they resolve the budget, but you can read up on it if it's of interest.
Thanks for the replies and the support. I did speak with the Head of the School today and she basically said she could see why I was upset but nothing was done on behalf of the school administration intentionally. The school nurse, who is provided to us by the MN Dept of Health and whom we share with other schools sent the letter. (Of course, she would have no agenda...) The school nurse is a new thing and isn't there to help students, conduct exams or be there in case of an emergency. She is there to administer all of the state forms (vaccination forms). The Head of School also stated that my kids were not the only ones in the school that had chicken pox, so the letter was not specific to my family anyway. She did say that she would talk with the school nurse and make sure that this doesn't happen again.
There is obviously nothing I can do about this all now. My family has been outed. I have had a few families approach me to expose their own un-vaccinated children and 2 people have asked me about CO exemptions--they didn't know you could get one. It is Minnesota so I am assuming that I am being quietly judged and crucified by millions of passive-aggressive paper cuts by others. My husband and I are fine with the scrutiny--I just hope that my kids don't bear the brunt of it.
I am surprised and somewhat vindicated to hear that this was a HIPPAA violation, even thought our names were never mentioned. Privacy is a slippery slope and although I don't think I will go through the investigation process this time, I will be much more aware in the future.
I do disagree with you about the school's needing to send a letter home to the entire school community. I think they absolutely DID need to send a letter; chicken pox is extremely contagious, and if there are people in the school community with impaired immune systems, they have every right to know that there were cases within the school community. Chicken pox is nearly always a mild illness in otherwise-healthy young children, it can be extremely serious for adults, particularly adults with impaired immune systems.
I suggest that you tread much more carefully in cases where your children might have infected others. It's all well and good to not panic about chicken pox in your healthy, unvaccinated, well-nourished children, but it's not fair of you to assume that chicken pox is going to be mild in everyone your kids might infect. Also, an unfortunate issue for many families these days is the fact that often, moms (and dads) cannot afford to take time off from work to care for a child with an illness like chickenpox, which usually lasts at least a week. In fact, if you don't work for a company that employs at least 50 people, employers can fire you for missing work to care for an ill child. This is a failure of our society, and in a perfect world, should not be your burden--but it's not a perfect world, and we need to at least try not to add to the burden of others.
The health departments in Minnesota are probably under extreme pressure to push vaccination, since there is so much publicity surrounding the high rate of autism amongst the Minneapolis Somali population (1 in 22, last I heard, with autism being absolutely unheard of amongst Somalis in Somalia). I expect that such pressure is at least partially to blame for how your school nurse handled this incident.
Finally, if your kids were not the only ones who had chicken pox, then theoretically, at least, your family wasn't really "outed."
I think the most important thing is that your kids got chicken pox naturally, with no complications! I envy you!
I'm happy for you that it was the government nurse who violated your privacy, instead of the school. So now you don't have to be upset with the school.
Unless you told them otherwise, the parents only know that you opted out of the chickenpox vaccine. They don't need to know if you've opted out of any other vaccines.
I would talk with the government nurse to make sure this does not happen again, and that if anyone asks her personal questions about your kids and their exemption status, that she not answer.
All schools and any medical personnel are trained in HIPPA rules. A government nurse would definitely be HIPPA trained. In fact, they have to re-train every year or two. This is a violation according to my understanding. There was no need to state any student's vaccination or CO status, only that there were cases of chicken pox.
Sorry to be late to the thread. I go to a small private Montessori school in MI (and we used to go to one in Minnesota) and have the chicken pox. We did pull the 2nd child out as soon as the first one came down with it (we are now at 10 days and she is still not showing any signs), because we have an infant community and pregnant moms and I didn't want to expose anyone.
It is funny how it has changed in one generation from a mild childhood illness everyone gets to a terrifying disease. Hopefully our second will also have a mild case of it.
I just wanted to sympathize with you. We are obviously the ones with chicken pox and I'm scared the girls will be shunned. And that our adult friends will shun us. Our first DD had a serious vax reaction so I really don't appreciate any commentary on what I do regarding my kids and vaccinations.
Sorry to hear they sent the among "CO" letter. When the state called us they assumed we had vax'd and it failed.
schools are required to have policies regarding how they will notify for contagious disease. However, I find it completely, utterly, unnecessary for them to include that cases have been found in unvaccinated children, and for what exemption those children had. Simply stating there were cases is enough, with info about the disease and what to do if your child has symptoms.
However... I would doubt, could be wrong, that the nurse did it with bad intentions, she likely just included too many facts, facts that were unnecessary. I feel she did violate your privacy, i think to could have been unintentional, not sure. Did it say if vaccinated kids had cases? In the letter?