Judge rules against NKY student in lawsuit over chicken pox vaccine

Updated: Apr. 2, 2019 at 8:05 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A judge has ruled against a northern Kentucky Catholic high school student in his lawsuit against the Northern Kentucky Health Department.

Jerome Kunkel, 18, sued after he wasn’t allowed to play basketball because he didn’t get the chicken pox vaccination for religious reasons. The judge ruled in favor of the health department Tuesday saying they can ban students who are not vaccinated from school and extra curricular activities.

The health department released the following statement in reaction to the ruling:

“Today the Boone Circuit Court issued a decision upholding the Northern Kentucky District Health Department’s statutory charge to protect the health and welfare of the community. We are pleased with the Court’s careful and thorough review of the evidence and legal issues posed in this case. The Court’s ruling, which follows on the heels of the Northern Kentucky Health Department receiving national recognition through re-accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board, 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.”

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An outbreak of 32 cases of the chicken pox at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart and Assumption Academy prompted the health department to ban all students without proof of immunity from the school for 21 days.

The ban began after the last student or staff member contracted the virus.

Kunkel claimed the vaccine is against his beliefs because he believes it’s “derived from aborted fetal cells,” and calls that “immoral, illegal, and sinful.”

The National Catholic Bioethics Center says the vaccine is OK because it doesn’t actually contain aborted cells.

Kunkel, a senior at Assumption Academy, has been out of school since March 15.

The lawsuit claimed that Our Lady of the Sacred Heart is an elementary school across the street from Assumption, and that no cases have been confirmed at Assumption.

In addition, the lawsuit claimed that in February, after a couple of cases had popped up at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, Assumption’s principal was informed by the NKY Health Department that no one in the school could participate or attend extra curricular activities unless they were tested and it was determined they were immune to chicken pox.

His attorney claimed Kunkel was discriminated against and ‘targeted’ because of his religious beliefs.

He asked the court to enter an injunction so every child without the vaccination can return to school, calling the health department’s decision an abuse of office.

Prosecutors disagreed, saying Kunkel’s right to practice religion doesn’t give him, or any of the other students, a right to put others at risk.

Read the judge’s complete ruling below:

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