By Michael Hernandez
THOUSAND OAKS—Conejo Valley Unified School District staff was directed to develop a uniform and consistent confidential medical appointment policy which allows students in grades 7-12 to be absent without parental consent.
“What medical confidential services are we talking about?” stated board trustee Sandee Everett. “We are required by the ed code to excuse the students but who is leally responsible if something goes wrong with an abortion? Who is liable? Who facilitates the ride?”
“I would like some answers from district staff about the services that Planned Parenthood offers our schools? Do other pregnancy planning services have access to the schools such as Ohana Health (opened in Thousand Oaks on May, 1985; has served over 25,000 women, men and families)? I would also ask district staff to state the district policy on transgender (issues such as hormone therapy) confidential medical services? Who falls in this category?
Everett stated: “I know the district staff can not ask the purpose of confidential medical services, but may a request be made to confirm the time and date of an appointment? How are we going to manage this law within our district? This leaves a lot for interpretation at the school site level?”
Trustee Jenny Fitzgerald stated that she saw a contradiction in the current board policy which she thought was odd. One section she claimed appears that no parental notice is required but another section does. Fitzgerald asked for the applicable attorney opinion. “How will the schools verify, if it is to be verified by the parent? I suggest a review by an outside counsel to look at legal opinions and what other districts are using to protect our district from liability?
Trustee Cindy Goldberg stated: “If my child comes late to a particular period or makes a bad choice, I will get the annoying robo call. Parents get notified?”
According to Dr. Lisa Miller, Assistant Superintendent, Student Support Services, “The way it exists today, a student can be released for a confidential medical appointment and it is entered as an excused absence.”
Trustee Fiitzgerald asked for the robo system to be applied the same district wide.
Board President Betsy Connolly said this policy is a “hot mess.” We need to examine the state law and the original intent passed in 1986. What was the intent back then? We need to know when our board policies do not comply with state law. I applaud you for not hiding this. We are not doing what is right by families when we don’t let them know in a clear way to have a conversation with their children. We need to have them as a source of support.
Trustee Everett added: “We need to have consistent practices at all school sites. If this is not defined, then school sites are interpreting this for themselves. The school board members have the right to define the policy and spell it out in our practice. This will protect teachers, protect nurses, and office staff. We need to spell it out more clearly. What have been the court decisions so far? We need to have a district protocol; otherwise we will face liability.”
Board President Connolly in addressing school staff said, “I am asking you to get this right. We have clear expectations. Look at the state law and ed code. Don’t rush back, but bring back a policy when you are ready. We need to interpret the law for our school and community.”
Michael Hernandez, Co-Founder of the Citizens Journal—Ventura County’s online news service; editor of the History Makers Report and founder of History Makers International—a community nonprofit serving youth and families in Ventura County, is a former Southern California daily newspaper journalist and religion and news editor. He has worked 25 years as a middle school teacher. Mr. Hernandez can be contacted by email at [email protected].