Monday, August 18, 2008

California parents: Information for those with children in public schools

From the California Catholic Conference, a handy-dandy synopsis of what parents of public schoolers need to know about their rights. Read the entire info here (also available in Spanish).

An excerpt from the two-page brochure [boldface mine]:

. . . By law, at the beginning of each school year, public schools send home many documents. In one of these documents, the school district will be giving notification that the school assumes approval of all of the school’s curriculum and activities.

In other words, if a parent or guardian does not approve of any of the topics mentioned above he or she must notify the school. If the parent or guardian does nothing the school officials can and will assume approval or an “opt-in” to the school’s entire program.

However, the language explaining the school’s policy regarding “opt-in” and “opt-out” is written in “legalese” and can easily be overlooked or misunderstood by families.

In plain words:
  • Parents or guardians who object to certain education offered to their children must specifically request that they be excused, i.e., they must “opt-out,” or the school assumes that permission for the students to participate has been granted.

  • In order to make that “specific request” a parent or guardian must complete an “opt-out” form. A standard “opt-out” form can be obtained from the school office.

  • A signed “opt-out” form must be submitted for each student and for each type of objectionable activity from which that student is to be excused.

  • An “opt-out” form for each student is only considered valid for the current school year—and must be resubmitted annually.

  • All parents or guardians have the right to be informed of the content and approximate date of presentation of all materials and subjects.

  • In addition, all parents or guardians have the right to examine copies of all tests, questionnaires, or surveys that inquire about students’ or their parents’ personal beliefs, family life, religion or sex practices.

Confidential Medical Services

From the time students enter the 7th grade in a public school, they are granted complete freedom for purposes of securing confidential medical services, which may include contraceptives, abortions and psychotropic drugs.

That policy is the result of a 1997 court decision (American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren) which extended the “right of privacy” to minors. The California Supreme Court ruled that a minor’s right to privacy superseded the minor’s parents’ rights as guardians.

In addition, in 2004 California’s Attorney General Lockyer wrote an opinion supporting that school policy, saying:

“We conclude that a school district may not adopt a policy pursuant to which the school will notify a parent when a student leaves school to receive confidential medical services.”

Confidential medical services may include abortion, birth control, AIDS treatment and/or psychological analysis.

Ordinarily, parents or guardians must grant written permission for their children to participate in off campus activities or to receive over-the-counter medication from school personnel. However, when a student requests confidential medical services, then he or she can actually be released without parental knowledge or permission during school hours to receive those services.

Like the notification regarding “opt-out” for objectionable educational activities, at the beginning of each school year, parents or guardians are notified of this public school policy for students in grades 7-12.

And like the notification about the availability of an “opt-out,” the information about the policy of releasing students for confidential medical services may also be overlooked or misunderstood. . .


Perpetua said...

"That policy is the result of a 1997 court decision (American Academy of Pediatrics v. Lungren) which extended the “right of privacy” to minors. The California Supreme Court ruled that a minor’s right to privacy superseded the minor’s parents’ rights as guardians."

I guess the only way to change this is with a California Constitutional Amendment. The good news is that once the proposed amendment is on the ballot, it only requires 50% approval.

The Underground Pewster said...

This is a good follow up demonstrating the long term consequences of Supreme Court rulings. These decisions have a way of percolating throughout society and popping up in unexpected places. I find it strange that the effects of many of these decisions (although not this one) become apparant in Medical practices and schools. Perhaps these are areas that lawyers have had monetary victories.
Of course parents should consent before medical practice on their children, that would be the "right" thing to do. In today's courtrooms, it is not about justice, nor about right or wrong.
As Judge Bork would say, "Slouching towards Gomorrah..."