San Diego Unified School District’s Parental Notification Policy Challenged
In an attempt to help the San Diego Unified School District come into conformity with state privacy laws, the ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties has sent two letters (see below) to the school district, with Planned Parenthood of San Diego & Riverside Counties, asking the district to rescind its current legally flawed policy.
The school district maintains an antiquated and dangerous policy that inhibits students from seeking confidential medical care when they are pregnant. The policy requires school officials to notify a parent or guardian when they learn that a student is pregnant or planning to seek an abortion.
The school board met last night to consider changes to the policy, but was advised by their counsel to take the matter under consideration. We are disappointed that the policy was not corrected, and call on the San Diego School Board to do so at once.
This policy stands in direct conflict with California’s medical emancipation statutes, which permit a minor to obtain reproductive 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.
Under the medical emancipation statutes enacted by the California legislature, a minor of any age has the same right as an adult “to consent to medical care related to the prevention or treatment of pregnancy.” 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 women’s health and safety, allowing them the safest possible environment to seek medical care. Numerous studies show that most pregnant teens do confide in their parents, and that those who do not usually have a good reason for doing so (up to and including the fact that a parent is abusive). When teens fail to seek medical care, they put themselves at risk. Studies demonstrate that pregnant teens are less likely to seek medical care than other pregnant women–and one of the primary reasons for failing to seek care is fear that their parents may find out.
The ACLU is pleased that the San Diego School Board recognizes that its current policy and practices are not in conformity with the law. We call on the board to ensure that any revisions to their policies and practices recognize the privacy rights of pregnant minors that are encoded in state law.