San Diego School District Revises Parental Notification Policies

With a unanimous vote, the San Diego Unified School District today rectified serious deficiencies in its confidential medical release policies at the urging of the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and Planned Parenthood of San Diego & Riverside Counties. With its vote, the district is now in conformity with state privacy laws, and the health and safety of at-risk students is protected.

The school district had maintained an antiquated and dangerous policy that inhibited students from seeking confidential medical care.

This policy stood in direct conflict with California’s medical emancipation statutes, which permit a minor to obtain confidential health care without parental notice or consent, and require school officials to release students for attendance for such appointments. The policy also violates the right to privacy guaranteed in the California Constitution.

The old policy endangered vulnerable young people and prevented them from obtaining necessary medical care for serious problems. While of course it is best if minors can consult loving and supportive parents before seeking medical care, not all minors are able to do so. In some cases, a parent has abused the minor, causing the injuries that require medical care. In other cases, minors fear retaliation for disclosing sensitive medical issues, or a parent is unwilling to recognize the need for care and will not consent. For example, students contemplating suicide because of perceived family problems, or teenage victims of rape or sexual assault by a relative, or students realizing they need treatment for substance abuse but fear retaliation from parents for admitting a drug or alcohol problem.

Under the medical emancipation statutes enacted by the California legislature, minors have the right to obtain certain sensitive medical services without parental notice or consent. In addition, the California Education Code (46010.1) requires school districts to notify students and parents “that school officials may excuse any pupil from school for the purpose of obtaining confidential medical services without the consent of the parent or guardian.”

The statutes are written to protect young people’s health and safety, allowing them the safest possible environment to seek medical care.

The ACLU lauds the school district for making these important changes to protect the health and safety of its students.