Department of Health v. Curry
722 So.2d 874
Fla.App. 1 Dist.,1998.
November 20, 1998 (Approx. 5 pages)
722 So.2d 874, 131 Ed. Law Rep. 870, 23 Fla. L. Weekly D2569
District Court of Appeal of Florida,
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, Appellant,
Sara R. Johnson CURRY, and the Holmes County School Board, Appellees.
Nov. 20, 1998.
Rehearing Denied Jan. 6, 1999.
Student's mother sought declaratory and injunctive relief from ruling of Department of Health denying
mother's claim that student was exempt from immunization requirements on religious grounds. The Circuit
Court, Holmes County, Russell A. Cole, Jr., J., granted declaratory and injunctive relief to mother.
Department appealed. The District Court of Appeal,
, J., held that: (1) Department was precluded
from inquiring into bona fides of mother's claim for religious exemption, and (2) mother was not required to
exhaust her administrative remedies.
, J., concurred specially in results and filed opinion.
Chief Legal Counsel, Department of Health, Tallahassee, for appellant.
John A. Barley & Associates, P.A., Tallahassee, for appellees.
The Department of Health seeks review of orders denying its motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies, and granting appellee Curry declaratory and injunctive relief by requiring the
Department to certify to the Holmes County School Board that Curry's daughter is exempt, for religious
reasons, from the immunizations against communicable diseases mandated by
section 232.032(1), Florida
. By cross-appeal, Curry seeks review of the trial court's denial of her request for an award of
attorney fees. We affirm as to all issues raised.
The pertinent facts are not disputed. In August 1996, Curry wrote a letter to the Department of Health and
Rehabilitative Services in Holmes County, objecting to the immunization of her daughter against
communicable diseases as a condition precedent to her admission to public school for the upcoming school
year on the ground that “the administration of immunizing agents .
.. completely conflicts with my religious
tenants [sic] and practices.” A few days later, the Department responded in writing that, “[a]fter reviewing
[Curry's] letter and all the facts and circumstances, it was determined that the letter was legally insufficient
to grant a religious exemption from immunizations.” Curry was also told she might “request an
administrative hearing” if she was not satisfied with the decision.
Instead of requesting an administrative hearing, Curry filed an action in the trial court, seeking declaratory
and injunctive relief. Curry asserted that, according to the plain language of section 232 .032(4)(a), Florida
Statutes (1995), her daughter was entitled to exemption from the mandatory immunization provisions of
upon receipt by the Department of the written objection, for religious reasons, to
immunization. Notwithstanding her entitlement to the exemption, Curry's daughter was being denied