Parental rights & school health clinics

Parents-rights-in-educationBy Lori Porter
Former middle school teacher,
Parents’ Rights in Education

A new school-based health center is scheduled to open within the next few weeks at Century High School. Should parents be excited or apprehensive?

Since 2011, districts across Oregon have received more than $7 million of federal money to create or improve SBHCs. While many of the services they offer are benign and uncontroversial, when it comes to the issue of reproductive services for minors and the rights of parents, a district has the duty to proceed with great caution. Parents need to consider the advice or type of services their minor child might receive once he/she leaves their classroom, walks down the halls of their school and enters the SBHC.

The OSBHC Network (Oregon School-Based Health Centers) campaigns for free confidential reproductive services to youth. The Oregon Youth Sexual Health Plan, for example, which is touted by both the OSBHC and the Oregon Department of Education, advocates providing emergency contraceptives to women under the age of 18 and hormonal birth control without gynecological exams. Can districts really afford the liability and negative press that may ensue if a minor experiences a seriously adverse reaction to such medicine?

This is a national issue. On Dec. 3, 2012, the American College of Pediatricians announced its recommendation against a policy of pre-prescribing “emergency contraceptives” to adolescents stating that “the morning-after pill was a risk to pediatric patients.” This counters the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recent recommendation that pediatricians (do) provide younger adolescents with such medications. At your local SBHC, who will get to determine what service or treatment is best for your child?

In the 2011 document entitled Oregon Health Authority Minor Rights distributed by the Oregon Health Authority/Healthy Kids, it states that, “Minors of any age are allowed to access birth control-related information and services as well as treatment for sexually transmitted infections without parental consent.” These are messages directed toward minors all across the state of Oregon. (Visit for more information.)

Most responsible parents want to retain their ability to make health-related decisions for their children. Public schools have an obligation to honor parents’ rights and their roles in the lives of their children. Schools are expected to support, not destroy, the parent/child relationship. School districts have an obligation to thoughtfully and dutifully consider issues such as family privacy, children’s medical records/medical history and parental notification.

What does this all mean for parents of students attending Century High School? Despite the creative on-campus SBHC marketing being done by Century High School students, the school district must ultimately give account to parents of the students they serve. It is imperative that parents and guardians be resolute and alert to what services are being offered to their minor children. The convenience that a SBHC provides parents and guardians — by eliminating their need to pick up their child for a scheduled off-campus doctor appointment — may be overshadowed by what could potentially be lost.

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