Parental-consent rule unlikely to change |

Parental-consent rule unlikely to change

The area high school district’s board won’t be making a change to its parental-consent policy any time soon, despite pleas from those who would like a policy that notifies parents if students leave campus for confidential medical appointments.

Nevada Joint Union High School District’s board of trustees is expected to receive a report Wednesday from Superintendent Maggie Deetz regarding the district’s handling of the parental-consent issue, but no vote about the policy has been scheduled.

The district does not have a formal policy allowing students to leave campus for confidential appointments, but the practice is allowed because of state code and an opinion from Attorney General Bill Lockyer affirming the right of a student to seek such services without a parent’s consent.

In the weeks since the policy became a point of public debate, board members have been lobbied by parents on either side of the issue. Some members of the public have argued that parents deserve to know about students leaving campus, while others have defended the current approach because it provides privacy to students in difficult situations.

“At the present time, we have no plans to bring this to the board,” said board President Dan Miller. “It’s not an issue of whether the district is parent-friendly; it’s an issue of whether this school board can tweak a state law. We’re not on either side, but on the side of the law.”

Trustee John Renwick said the board is still sifting through pages and pages of memos and legal advice regarding the district’s parental-consent procedures.

Renwick believes the California Education Code, as written, is especially vague on the parental consent issue. But a change in the law, he said, is the Legislature’s decision.

“I don’t see it as the school district’s role to change this. We need to take a look at redrafting the education code to make it state (whether) the school districts should mandate parental consent or not.”

Trustee Mark Heauser said he has spent as much as two hours a day fielding phone calls and e-mails from parents curious about how the board will deal with the parental-consent issue.

While he didn’t want to take a stance on the policy, Heauser said “it’s consuming a lot of time for the board and it’s not something that’s taken lightly. We’re trying to get educated.”

Parent Jean Gregory said she continues to work with the Capitol Resource Institute, a politically active Sacramento-based nonprofit, to have the board address the item during an upcoming meeting.

“We’re going to press forward,” she said.

Gregory said she is disappointed the parental-consent issue has become a political one when it’s the rights of parents at stake. In the past weeks, a Web site supporting the district’s policy has been established, with links to the Capitol Resource Group’s findings.

“I don’t care about politics,” said Gregory, a pro-choice mother of two Bear River High School students. Gregory said she brought the parental-consent issue to light simply to educate parents about a little-known provision in the district’s handbook.

“I don’t believe in privacy for youth. They need to have parents watching them all the time. Even good kids make bad decisions,” she said.

There are 30 California school districts with policies mandating parental consent, Gregory said. Not a single one has been faced with a lawsuit, she added.

“I don’t know why we’re making this into such a big deal.”

Capitol Resource Institute Executive Director Karen England said the nonprofit, which has supported changes mandating parental consent in Placer and El Dorado counties, will continue to seek a change in Nevada County.

“We don’t think school is the place to emancipate students. We’d like our schools to focus on educating them and leaving the socializing of them to the parents,” England said.

England didn’t say how much money the group has spent in Nevada County, only that “we will continue to help the parents have the district to enact a parent-friendly policy.”

The Capitol Resource Group is opposed to a bill sponsored by state Sen. Nell Soto, D-Ontario, that would mandate the publishing of a student’s rights on the California Department of Education’s Web site and on school grounds. The “California Youth Access to Information Act” simply places the rights of students in easily accessible places, said Soto spokesman David Miller, and is not meant to change any laws.

“She believes in getting information out to people … and (the law) is designed to increase parental involvement between students and parents,” Miller said.

The bill has been approved by the Senate Education Committee. If passed, the bill would take effect Jan. 1.

Renwick, a Bear River High School parent, said that while he’s not completely comfortable with the board’s reliance on the education code for its parental-consent policy, the board isn’t responsible for a change.

“We can avoid politics simply by having the state rewrite the policy so that it is clear,” he said. “I don’t discount anyone in wanting to lobby the Legislature to get this law changed.”

What: Superintendent’s report on student confidential medical appointments, attendance policy and practices for Nevada Joint Union High School District.

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday

Where: High school board of trustees meeting, Nevada Union High School Multipurpose Room, 11761 Ridge Road, Grass Valley

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