Circuit Judge Jaymie Godwin Wilfong ordered Thursday that the Randolph County School System must still provide homebound educational services to a Pickens High School senior who has been barred from attending classes at her school.
The student, Olivia Hudok, was told by officials in September that she is not to return to school because of her refusal to receive mandatory immunizations. She and her father, Phil Hudok, filed a complaint against the Randolph County Board of Education and Superintendent Dr. James Phares Sept. 11. They asked for a religious exemption allowing her to return to school.
On Sept. 28, Wilfong ordered the school system to provide educational services for Olivia Hudok until there was a final resolution in the Kanawha County Circuit Court, where there was a legal challenge to the state's Department of Health and Human Resources' interpretive rule that all seventh- and 12th-graders receive Tdap and MCV4 booster vaccinations.
On Oct. 17, the Kanawha County Circuit Court upheld the interpretive rule.
At Thursday's hearing, attorney Greg Bailey, representing the Randolph BOE and Phares, asked for a dismissal of the instructional injunctive relief.
"The final decision was made by Kanawha County Circuit Court," Bailey said. "The underlying reason to dismiss this is jurisdictional. By statute, the venue lies in Kanawha County. When a case involves a state agency, there is no jurisdiction in Randolph County."
Patrick Lane, representing the Hudoks, said the real issue was the student being denied her right to a public education.
"It is our contention that Randolph County Schools still have the duty to provide Olivia Hudok with an education," Lane said.
Wilfong said there were two issues to consider in the case: the vaccination issue and the obligation of counties to provide education. She said her ruling was that the case would continue, and the Randolph County BOE would continue providing homebound learning for Olivia Hudok until the West Virginia Supreme Court gives further direction.
Phil Hudok said he was pleased with the judge's ruling.
"I cannot wait to see the outcome of the appeal," Phil Hudok said. "I am pleased that Olivia's homebound education will continue until then."
Olivia Hudok said she was pleased with Thursday's decision.
"Everything with my homebound schooling is going well and I am glad to get to continue that," Olivia Hudok said.
"I am very thankful for my family and friend's support. I will continue to stand strong."
Contact Beth Christian Broschart by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.