Mongomery County public school officials suspended 1,805 public secondary school students by 11:30 a.m. yesterday because they were not in compliance with a new Maryland state law requiring them to have measles immunizations.
In accordance with the statewide deadline of Dec. 1, Prince George's County also suspended 688 non-complying secondary school students as of noon yesterday.
Students in both counties who missed the deadline were suspended until they produce forms showing they have been vaccinated against measles or have already built a natural immunity.
Montgomery County schools health officer William Hauptman said he was pleased with the number, since the county had predicted within the last few days that there were as many as 3,500 noncomplying secondary school students. Prince George's County school officials had predicted earlier this week that 700 were not in compliance.
On Wednesday, principals in Montgomery County met the noncomplying students in their schools to tell them not to come to school after the deadline unless they had their forms, Hauptman said.
As a result, few students were actually turned away from the schools in either Montgomery or Prince George's.
The deadline for the immunization law was preceded by two months of extensive telephoning and letter writing on the part of Montgomery and Prince George's County school administrators to find non-complying students. In addition, Prince George's health department officials held clinics in their schools, and the Montgomery County health deparment clinics extended their hours during the month of November.
"I'm seeing forms in my sleep," said Joseph Good, the principal of Rockville High School, who by the end of the day had 43 noncomplying students. Five of those students had showed up at school that morning. "I called their homes and told their parents," Good said. "One had the form on the dresser at home, and one student found he had it with him." The other three Good sent home.
Good said he had asked his friend, Allan Halper, the assistant principal of Albert Einstein High School, why Einstein had such a low number of students who did not have their immunization forms in. "He said, 'We promised the kids if we get all the forms in, we'll have a sock hop the last period of the day," Good recalled. (Einstein was short 21 forms yesterday).
Another walk-in immunization clinic will be held in Montgomery County today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Woodside Elementary School, at Ballard Street and Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring for those who missed the deadline.
Private school students in Montgomery County have an extended deadline until Dec. 23 to produce proof of immunization, according to county health department spokesman Frank Berfield.
In Fairfax County, students in grades one through 12 have until Dec. 9 to proof of immunization against communicable diseases or face suspension, Loudoun County students must show such proof by Jan. 3. Some preschool and kindergarten students in Fairfax have already been suspended for lack of immunizations.