Measles Emergency–an Opportunity for Reducing Ultra-Orthodox Insularity through Education

To the Editor,

With better secular education comes a better society. Measles and misinformation about immunization are perfect examples. County Executive Ed Day’s “Declaration of a Local State of Emergency” is sound action to protect the public against a serious, highly contagious disease, measles. Parents found disregarding this directive can face a misdemeanor penalty, for example, if the evidence shows that their child infected others in a place of public assembly.

Mr. Day should direct his public health personnel to go one step further. Professional health and educational personnel should be directed to visit every private school in the County where immunization rates appear to be low, and to spend time at these schools instructing both the students and the teachers about the science of disease, how immunization can prevent disease, and on how personal and civic responsibility demands, both morally and legally, that people become immunized. Governor Cuomo and his Education Commissioner can and should help in this effort, as authorized by Executive Law § 24(7).

This is a golden opportunity for civil authorities to demonstrate to the religiously devout that non-Orthodox people care about the Orthodox community’s health and welfare. For some, it may be an introduction to science and epidemiology. Exposure to the measles for the unimmunized is a bad thing. In contrast, exposure to scientific knowledge and to educators from the outside world is a good thing.

The District Attorney can assist my making clear that intentional disregard for the safety of the larger community can be punished. Disregarding the danger of measles can now be prosecuted as a B misdemeanor here in Rockland County under the Executive Law. Likewise, the dangers of inadequate education should not be ignored. Government should view dereliction of children’s education as endangering their welfare, a B misdemeanor under the Penal Law.

No person or group is above the law, and all citizens should be educated, and educated on their responsibilities to the larger society.

Mike Diederich, Jr.
Candidate for District Attorney
Resident of Stony Point

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