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Huffman v. State

Supreme Court of Alaska

April 3, 2009

Patrick C. HUFFMAN, N.D., and Amy Reedy-Huffman, C.P.M., Appellants,
v.
STATE of Alaska, Appellee.

Page 340

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 341

Tim Cook, Cook & Associates, Anchorage, Paul H. Bratton, Law Office of Paul H. Bratton, Talkeetna, for Appellants.

James E. Cantor, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Talis J. Colberg, Attorney General, Anchorage, for Appellee.

Before : FABE, Chief Justice, MATTHEWS, EASTAUGH, CARPENETI, and WINFREE, Justices.

OPINION

MATTHEWS, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

All public school children must be tested for tuberculosis. State regulations require the use of a purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test for this purpose. The test may be waived if, in the opinion of a physician, it would be injurious for a particular child.

The appellants, Patrick Huffman and Amy Reedy-Huffman, believe that the PPD test would be injurious for their children. They submitted an affidavit so stating signed by Patrick, who is a naturopathic doctor. The Kenai Peninsula School District found the waiver affidavit insufficient because state regulations require such affidavits to be signed by a physician entitled to practice medicine or osteopathy. Accordingly, the district notified the Huffmans that their children would be excluded from school unless they took PPD tests.

The Huffmans sued the school district and the State of Alaska. They contended that the children were entitled to a waiver and alternatively that the test requirement violated their religious and liberty interests. From a summary judgment rejecting these claims, they now bring this appeal. We hold that although their waiver application was correctly rejected and they did not show that their objections were religiously based, they did present a plausible claim that their fundamental liberty interests were infringed. We therefore remand with instructions to determine whether the Huffmans' fundamental right to make decisions about their children's medical treatment can be accommodated by other tests that are acceptable to them while also satisfying the compelling public health interests of the State.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

In August 2006 Patrick Huffman and Amy Reedy-Huffman enrolled their sons Stone and Elias Huffman in fourth grade and kindergarten, respectively, in public schools in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.[1] The schools informed the Huffmans that, pursuant to a state regulation, Stone and Elias could only attend if the children had a PPD skin test for tuberculosis or qualified for a medical exemption. A PPD skin test involves injecting a solution containing purified protein into the skin on the forearm; a reaction signifies a latent or active tuberculosis infection rather than the active disease. The Huffmans submitted affidavits to the school district intended to fulfill the requirements for medical exemptions for each son. These documents were signed by Dr. Dawn Lamb, a naturopath, as well as Patrick Huffman.[2] The Huffmans also submitted an objection to the tuberculosis test requirement on religious grounds.[3]

Page 342

In November the school district's health services department informed the Huffmans that their children were excluded from school as of December 15 or 16 for failure to comply with the state regulation regarding tuberculosis testing. The department sent an additional letter to the Huffmans explaining that " [w]e as a School District are not given any latitude within which to respond to your concern" regarding the PPD skin test because the regulation, 7 Alaska ...


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