When school districts and private daycares tell parents, as they often do, that children need to be immunized before they can attend, that’s only partly true. Some might argue that it’s a lie by omission, and they’d be right.
Gem State children can attend school or participate in daycare without being vaccinated. Here’s how: Idaho law allows parents a series of reasons they might choose not to vaccinate their kids. Those reasons might be medical, religious, or philosophical, and the law allows them to exercise their rights as parents to opt out.
Unfortunately, parents are often not told about these exemptions, and forms and websites announcing the requirements for students and daycare attendees often warn parents, your child will not be able to start classes or will be denied entry if immunizations are not complete. More times than not, the threat secures compliance.
Such was the motivation behind GOP Rep. Priscilla Giddings’ bill to require schools and daycares to include both bits of information—the immunization requirement as well as the exemptions parents can elect to use, if they choose. Giddings’ modest proposal, House Bill 133, sailed through the House 52-17 on Feb. 25, with all the chamber’s Democrats and a few Republicans objecting.
But the bill landed in the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, where its chairman, Republican Fred Martin of Boise, refuses to hear the measure. “We need to send the message in Idaho to immunize,” Martin told Idaho Education News.
Henceforth, call Martin Idaho’s Superintendent of Parental Instruction. Or King Martin. Either title will do. He’ll decide what’s good for parents and what’s not, what they should know and what the state should hide from them. Because Martin’s immunization goals, informed by his superior knowledge, supersede all else.
Martin’s view: Yes, parents have options when it comes to immunizing their kids, but parents are stupid. Whereas he is smart. Therefore, when it comes vaccinations, the government’s culture of secrecy is more important. A communications blackout on the rights of parents must be maintained. Martin’s decision to shelve the bill means senators won’t debate the merits of Giddings’ bill, and most parents will remain in the dark as concerns their options.
Parents deserve the whole story, yet Martin treats them as if they’re no more competent to be burdened with facts and information than the children they’re trying to enroll. Letting parents and guardians know they have options might lead them to make decisions that the government (and Fred Martin) has decided is the wrong one, so it’s best to not let that happen.
Of course, Martin doesn’t deserve the whole blame. He’s but one of nine committee members. It takes a simple majority of the Health and Welfare Committee to call for a hearing on House Bill 133. Alas, many are content to hide behind Martin’s unilateral action, saying they’re powerless to act, which isn’t true. As for Martin, he appears to be more concerned with politics than public policy, telling me Thursday that he believes criticism of his decision will benefit him politically. At least he has his priorities straight.
So Martin’s obstruction stands. His decision is so good, it transcends the need for public discourse. Who needs a king when we have Fred Martin? And who needs parents when we have government to sift through what’s important and what’s not, leading us to the correct choices by never telling us we ever had choices in the first place?