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Education Reporter

Group Fights for Parents' Right to Consent to Medical Services
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Despite a recent contrary state attorney general's opinion, at least three California school districts have responded favorably to arguments that they can and should require parental notification and consent before releasing children from campus for confidential medical services. Such services may include abortion and contraception, pregnancy testing, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, suicide or counseling, and psychotropic drug therapy.

The vast majority of California districts have policies permitting students as young as age 12 to leave school grounds for such services without parental notification or consent, according to Capitol Resource Institute, a pro-family organization in California. California law clearly allows such policies, but the institute has successfully argued that it does not require them, persuading three different districts in January to retain their parent-friendly policies.

The institute's efforts were bolstered by parental turnout at school board meetings and recent poll results. About 25 parents spoke in favor of consent rights at the Fairfield-Suisun board meeting in January. "You guys want me to call you when my child won't be coming to school for the day," said one pastor/parent in attendance, "but you won't call me when he leaves?" The board voted to retain its policy in favor of requiring parental consent.

A poll taken by the institute of 10,000 residents of Solano County (where the Fairfield-Suisun district is located) indicated overwhelming support for parental consent/notification rights. The poll asked, "Should our public schools require parental consent or notification when a minor student leaves the school grounds for any reason other than an emergency?" Some 88% answered yes.

Similar institute polls in Placer and El Dorado Counties showed comparable levels of support. The Roseville Joint Union High School Board in Placer County and the El Dorado County Office of Education also decided in January to keep their parent-friendly policies.

"Parents do not want the public school to help their children keep secrets for them," noted the institute's Karen England.

After receiving requests for an opinion by El Dorado and Placer County education officials, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer opined in early December that minors have a right to obtain certain medical services without parental consent or notification. Opinions on both sides of the issue are based on conflicting interpretations of two different state statutory provisions.

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