Family of Guilford teen vaccinated without parental consent retains legal counsel

FILE - Nurse Lydia Holly prepares a child's COVID-19 vaccine dose, on Nov. 3, 2021, at Children's National Hospital in Washington. U.S. regulators are urging drugmaker Pfizer to apply for emergency authorization for a two-dose regimen of its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 and under while awaiting data on a three-dose course, aiming to clear the way for the shots as soon as late February. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

RALEIGH — The family of a Guilford County Public Schools student has retained legal counsel after their son was vaccinated without parental consent last year.  

According to a press release, Emily Happel, the mother of Tanner Smith, has retained the legal services of attorney Steven Walker of Walker Kiger, PLLC to represent them.  

Walker was the chief legal counsel for former Lt. Gov. Dan Forest. 

The release states Happel’s son was “illegally vaccinated without his or his mother’s consent by the Old North State Medical Society, which was working in conjunction with Guilford County Schools.” 

“No matter what your position is on vaccines, we should all be able to agree that children should not be subjected to medical procedures without their parents’ knowledge and consent,” Walker said in the statement. “We have made multiple attempts to try to resolve this issue with Guilford County Schools and the Old North State Medical Society and we have been met with nothing but deafening silence. Unfortunately, we have no other recourse than to take legal action against those who so flagrantly violated the rights of Emily and Tanner.” 

In late August, Happel told North State Journal that Guilford County Public Schools (GCS) required her son Tanner to be tested in order to participate in the football team at Western Guilford High School.  Her son had gone into a clinic being held at Northwest Guilford High School for the test and came out with a vaccination card.  

The clinic was run by Old North State Medical Society in partnership with GCS. The family had been sent a letter on Aug. 19, 2021, that Tanner would need to get a test to continue playing football. The letter said the test was scheduled for the next day on Aug. 20.  

Walker’s press statement notes that the flier promoting the clinic clearly stated that, “Students age 12-17 must have their parent or guardian sign the consent form and bring the completed form to the vaccination site.” 

Happel also said the clinic staff did not ask once for the letter from GCS directing them to get a test for their child and that Tanner never received a COVID-19 test. 

Upon learning the news that her son had told the staffer he didn’t want the shot but the staffer proceeded anyway, Happel was irate. 

“My son told me that the lady who was helping him said they had tried to call his mother, but that she didn’t answer and said, ‘Let’s just give it to him anyway.’ I still had no idea that he was going to be getting a vaccine; I was still waiting for a test,” Happel told North State Journal last August. 

At the time of the incident, Old North State Medical Society did not respond to requests for comment. 

About A.P. Dillon 658 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_