New York Vaccination Law Could Keep Amish Schoolchildren Off Buses

From the Salamanca Press:

Amish school children in Cattaraugus County will probably have to find another way to school this fall if they currently are transported by school bus along with public school students.

New York’s new vaccination regulations eliminating religious exemptions — such as those claimed by the Amish — go into effect this September at the start of the school year.

It also applies to private schools, Headstart and other Pre-K programs.

The new state vaccination requirements may also keep some public school children out of school if they cannot prove they have started and have appointments for a six-week vaccination program from a physician.

Why would this affect Amish children, who mainly attend their own parochial schools? That’s because some Amish children in the state ride the bus to their own schools.

An Amish school in the area. Photo by Rick Miller/Salamanca Press

Amish children do go to public schools in some communities, but it’s not common (Holmes County and northern Indiana are notable, and large, exceptions).

The article says there are about 20 private Amish schools, each having 20-30 scholars (we can assume this is referring just to Amish in the Cattaraugus County area).

What to do?

What about a solution? County Health Director Dr. Kevin Watkins (who recently voiced concern about potential measles outbreaks in the community) addressed this:

The options are limited, Watkins indicated. Schools can either refuse to transport Amish children who are unvaccinated or transport them on a separate bus from public school students.

The New York State Department of Health is considering a statewide response to the issue Watkins and others raised with state health officials last month, but for now, it’s up to each county board of health.

The article says that the Amish here have a 100% religious exemption rate from vaccines (versus less than 1% in most other schools in the county).

That’s quite a difference.

Watkins says “It’s time to sit down with the (Amish) bishops to see if we can come to some kind of understanding.”

Should the state provide an additional bus, in the name of accommodating the religious choices of the local Amish?

Should the Amish deal with this issue themselves, since they choose to opt-out from vaccinations?

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      Schoolchildren off Buses

      It would seem like a reasonable solution to have the Amish provide their own transportation to school. I would think that is the norm for most Amish and Mennonite children attending parochial schools.

      The state is doing its part by allowing them the parochial schools and giving them the vaccination exemption.

      1. That seems reasonable too, though I do wonder if the school bus option is used mainly by Amish families whose children would have to walk down dangerous roads to get to their schools. In other words if it is closer to a necessity for some than a luxury. I don’t have any information on that, just speculation.

    2. Nick

      WHY? If all the other children are vaccinated wouldn’t they be protected from the non vaccinated?

      1. Andrea

        The reason for a potential issue lies with the concept of herd immunity. It takes a large portion of a population to be protected from a disease (either thru vaccination or natural disease) in order to keep an illness from spreading. For some diseases, like measles (which is highly contagious) it requires 90-95% of a population to be protected, so having even a small number of unvaccinated kids on a bus could still pose an issue. There are also some kids, who for various medical reasons such as chemotherapy or immune disorders, cannot get vaccines and would be susceptible to getting ill if around unvaccinated kids who could potentially spread disease. The school districts are likely having to consider the greater good of the whole in this situation. I work in public health, and I’ve seen many cases of disease start with just one case and spread like wildfire among kids. As much as I hate to see barriers to kids getting transportation to school, I also would hate to see kids get sick. Not a clear cut situation, and I hope a good solution can be found for all!

        1. Great comment Andrea. Thanks for explaining that. Nick raised a good question.

        2. Gretchen

          Vaccines Have Problems, Too

          This is less about “herd” immunity – which is not a proven theory and has a lot of holes — than parental rights to choose their children’s healthcare protocols. In the U.S., the number of mandatory vaccines has gone up from 24 in the 1980s to nearly 70, and not as a result of any real public health crisis. Vaccine manufacturers have no legal liability for vaccine injury — such as Type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, a side effect of the MMR, according to the FDA insert — so they can just keep making more vaccines and their lobbyists just keep pushing politicians to mandate them. Thankfully the Amish have hundreds of years of “practice” resisting unjust and unconscionable government action.

      2. Jeff Baker

        Yes Nick – your are correct.

      3. Leslie Kendall
    3. Jacqueline Mineo

      Buses for Amish Children

      Transportation to schools regardless of the school is an entitlement owed every family that lives in each school district in New York. Catholic School, Lutheran school or Amish. The Amish families in my school district originally bused with the “english” children but found it too disruptive and feared exposure to cultural influences that went against their religion so they petitioned the district for separate buses. It took a while but they got them, so inoculation should not be an issue here. School districts however are not required to provide the separate buses and are reluctant to do so in many cases.

    4. Marsha and Don


      Is this the same state, New York, that passed a law making it legal to kill a full term baby and call it abortion? Has this country gone mad?

    5. Walter Boomsma

      How about this?

      I have personally driven a taxpayer funded school van to transport as few as two kids to and from school, kids considered that had “behavioral issues” and were kept separate from others. Maybe we could teach these Amish kids how to misbehave?

    6. Jen

      Follow the money...

      In my local Amish community I found that the Amish children were banned from riding the district’s school buses even though they were riding separately from non-Amish children. Then if you look at budget for the school district, they are continuing to take $10 per day per child out of their operating fund even though they are no longer transporting the banned children. The Amish are struggling with this new cost even though they pay school taxes. Then to add insult to injury the public school has a $2 million excess each year. You can’t tell me that’s equitable.

    7. Jozef


      You do not need vacations, all children will become immune to all viruses in 14 days .. vaccination is done to reduce the population …. if you can give your children homeopathic remedies according to their specialty constitution … God bless you