By Janet Stephenson
The Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) Board of Education discussed its position on releasing students during school hours for abortions or other medical appointments without parental consent or notification, during the August 20, 2019 board meeting.
Districts are given the option, but are not required, to allow this practice according to a law passed in 1986 (EC 46010.1).
The “confidential medical services” referred to in the law can include abortion, contraception, testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and lobbying has now begun to include hormone therapy and puberty blockers for students transitioning from one gender to another.
The 2019 California Teachers Association New Business Item #6/19-12 proposes working on policy for minors to make medical decisions about hormone therapy without parental consent. The rationale included “the barrier of parental permission” is removed for minors to receive birth control hormones and should therefore be removed for minors to receive “gender identity confirming hormone therapy.”
According to case law, the operative word in the 1986 policy is “may.” The intent of the author of the law also factors into the practice being optional for school districts.
“In looking at it,” stated Trustee Fitzgerald while discussing Education Code § 46010.1 during the board meeting, “there appears to be quite a bit of controversy on the legal end in terms of how this is interpreted.”
“We have already reached out to legal counsel,” responded Assistant Superintendent of Student Services, Lisa Miller, “and are going to be seeking legal guidance on how we move forward on this. Because as Ms. Fitzgerald said, it’s been contested in many ways. So we do want legal guidance.”
So far, legal advice on this matter has not been presented to the board and community.
UNTIL THIS YEAR, CVUSD DID NOT PROPERLY NOTIFY PARENTS OF THEIR PRACTICE IN THEIR HANDBOOK
Until this school year, CVUSD notified parents in its annual Parents’ Rights and Responsibilities Handbook that the District does not excuse students for medical appointments without parental consent by including the phrase, “However, the District, as a practice, does not choose to release students to obtain confidential medical services.”
The current 2019-20 Parents’ Handbook notifies parents in the 2019-20 Parents’ Handbook that students may leave school to obtain abortions and other medical services without parental notification or permission.
These optional and controversial changes to the Parents’ Handbook were decided upon without an opportunity for public comment or a vote from the Board of Education.
DISCREPANCY IN THE AR, CVUSD HAS BEEN ALLOWING STUDENTS TO LEAVE SCHOOL
CVUSD has, in fact, allowed the practice of students leaving for “confidential medical services” since 2008 when the board updated its Administrative Regulation (AR) on the subject. It states, “When excusing students for confidential medical services or verifying such appointments, district staff shall not ask the purpose of such appointments but may contact a medical office to confirm the time of the appointment (CVUSD AR 5113).”
“What does this actually look like from a parents’ and kids’ perspective,” queried Trustee Goldberg at the August 20, 2019 board meeting discussion regarding CVUSD practice on this matter.
“If the student comes to us and says I have a confidential medical appointment,” responded CVUSD, Assistant Superintendent Miller, “we would release the student. We can verify the appointment by asking the student to bring back a doctor’s note that they had an appointment at a specific time.”