Law does permit parental notification
Sadly, Cheryl McCall, in her recent Other Voices, misses the entire point of efforts by Nevada Joint Union High School District parents to ensure that public schools do not send children off campus during the school day without notifying their parents.
McCall’s legal argument centers on the Lungren case (where the California Supreme Court held that minors have a right to medical confidentiality). Concerned parents in NJUHSD, however, do not dispute a minor’s general legal right to medical confidentiality. But they do strongly dispute the public school’s involvement in helping their children obtain confidential medical services. The public schools should educate children, not emancipate them. The public schools should be neutral. There is no reason why a child cannot attend a medical appointment at 3 o’clock instead of 1 o’clock. When the school collaborates to keep secrets from parents, there is an egregious breach of trust.
As an attorney, McCall should realize that there are two distinct legal issues here: 1) Can minor children obtain confidential medical services? Answer: Yes. 2) Must minor children be dismissed from school campus to obtain these services? Answer: No. Parent-constituents in NJUHSD have the right to ask their school board to respect their parental authority and not dismiss their children from campus without first notifying them.
While Lockyer mentions the Lungren case in his opinion, he also addresses two code sections: Ed. Code 48205 deals with the issue of calculating Average Daily Attendance, not mandating release. Lockyer blatantly misconstrued the legislative intent of this code to arrive at his politically-motivated conclusion.
The second code section cited is Ed. Code 46010 which states that a school district “shall” notify parents that they “may” excuse pupils from school for confidential medical services. No logical explanation is made how Lockyer determined the word “may” in this code means school districts shall release students. The truth of the matter is: there are a myriad of legal opinions on both sides of this politically-charged issue. Unbiased lawyers, however, always agree that school districts can set their own release policy and notify parents.
California law plainly delineates the threshold for child abuse (the point where parental rights can properly be taken away). If there is a situation of child abuse, incest, rape, etc., the school authorities, as mandatory reporters, should be reporting these crimes to law enforcement Ð not helping to cart teens off campus to receive “confidential medical services.” It is the height of arrogance for a school official to presume she knows what is best for a child, over the parents, when she personally believes the child comes from an allegedly “bad” home.
McCall contends that notifying parents about their children’s school-day medical appointments would violate the child’s confidentiality. A policy favoring parental notification, however, would not require that parents be notified about specific incidents of children seeking medical services. Rather, it would enact a blanket policy forbidding minors to leave school campus “for any reason without permission from the parent.”
What McCall overlooks is the fact that there is no legal “confidentiality” privilege between the school math teacher and the pupil. The doctor-patient privilege exists only between a student and his/her medical provider. It’s ironic that McCall believes parental notification violates a minor’s right to confidentiality but the math teacher helping Johnny to obtain suicide counseling does not. Parents who are concerned about the erosion of their parental rights, and the safety of their children during the school day, should take heed of this astounding revelation into the child-emancipator’s mind.
Concerning the issue of “civil liability,” it should be noted that school districts having parental-notification policies (some for over 10 years) have never been sued. Conversely, a school district permitting children to leave campus without parental consent is exposing itself to grave liability should the student be injured or injure another’s person or property while en route to receiving confidential medical services. Who will bear the risk for this: the sanctioning school or the unknowing parent?
Parents deserve better than to have their school undermine their authority and keep secrets from them as to the whereabouts of their children. We hope you will see through the disingenuous efforts of child-emancipators to cloud the legal issues. We hope that you will join many other citizens in NJUHSD who are passionately concerned about their parental rights and keeping their kids safe during the school day.
Karen England and Amy Koons are attorneys of the Capitol Resource Institute.
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