by Steven Ertelt
December 2, 2004
Sacramento, CA (LifeNews.com) — Responding to efforts around the state to protect parents’ rights, California’s top attorney has determined that schools are not required to tell parents when a student leaves school to obtain "confidential medical services," such as an abortion.
However, pro-life groups and even school district representatives say Attorney General Bill Lockyer is misconstruing a state law.
At issue is a statute that says school districts may release students for confidential medical purposes without parental consent.
Lockyer contends the policy is a requirement that prohibits schools from obtaining parental consent before students can be released.
In his opinion, which doesn’t carry the weight of a law or court ruling, Lockyer said schools must "notify both students and their parents that students are allowed to be excused from school for confidential medical appointments without parental consent."
Any school district that does not comply would “undermine the purposes and intent of the medical emancipation statutes," he said.
Earlier this year the Attorney General’s office contacted the Pacific Justice Institute to solicit their opinion on the issue. The legal foundation disagrees with Lockyer’s analysis.
PJI maintains that California law allows school districts to determine whether they will permit students to leave campus without parental permission, but school districts may choose to adopt a policy requiring it.
"Not only do we strongly disagree with Mr. Lockyer’s opinion, but we want to remind school districts that his opinion is in no way legally binding on any school district," said Brad Dacus, PJI’s President.
"In fact, we pledge to defend in court any school district with a policy requiring parental consent or prior notice before their child is allowed to leave campus," Dacus said.
Amy Koons, an attorney for the Capitol Resource Institute agreed with PJI’s analysis.
"It is amazing that the Attorney General can put out such an opinion despite the fact that there is not a single statute or any case law that prohibits school districts from letting a parent know when their child is going to leave campus," Koons said.
However, unless the Democrat-controlled legislature overturns the provision, which is considered unlikely, parents wanting their rights protected will probably have to turn to the courts.
They won’t get much help from the California Supreme Court, which voided a law in 1997 requiring abortion businesses to notify parents when their teenager daughters were considering an abortion.
In September, Rocklin Unified School District became the latest to pass a provision that limits students’ ability to leave school to obtain medical treatment without parental knowledge.
Meanwhile, the West Covina Unified School District has maintained such a parental involvement policy for more than ten years.
Mike Spence, president of the district, also opposed Lockyer’s opinion.
"This is simply a regurgitation of the arguments that we have shot down time and time again," Spence said. "The Attorney General’s staff appears to have started with a desired policy and then desperately, and not very successfully, searched for a legal rationale."
This isn’t the first time Lockyer has waded into the issue of parental rights.
Shortly following his election in 1998, Lockyer voided an opinion by pro-life former state attorney general Dan Lungren that encouraged parental consent on medical care.
Related web sites:
Capitol Resource Institute – https://www.capitolresource.org