Wednesday Jan 05 2005
Controversy arises again over confidentiality policy
By: Kimberly Horg, The Press-Tribune
A controversial topic that is no stranger to the Roseville Joint Union High School District is once again causing a difference of opinion. The district's medical release policies were on the agenda for Tuesday night's school board meeting, but it was pulled at the last minute for further review. The law states students may not be released from school for medical appointments without their parents' knowledge. But a recent opinion on confidential medical release from the state Attorney General's Office has a different outlook. State Attorney General Bill Lockyer says school districts may not adopt a policy requiring the district to notify a parent when a student leaves school to obtain confidential medical services. The law adds that beginning at age 12, minors can make their own medical decisions regarding reproductive health, mental health or substance abuse treatment. And notifying a parent of a student's absence for medical care, would violate the student's right to confidentiality. The school district's attorneys said the law requires schools to release students confidentially for certain kinds of medical care. "Statutes protecting the privacy of medical information are based on the Legislature's awareness that the threat of disclosure might deter persons needing treatment from seeking it," the opinion states. Superintendent Tony Monetti said the item was put on the board agenda upon the request of the teachers union's lawyer and trustees. He says the board wanted more information on the item for further review. Monetti doesn't know if it will be put on the next agenda. The Roseville school board supported the ban with a 3-1 vote in 2003. Supporters of the ban on confidential medical release and pro-life organizations said the law gives school districts the power to decide whether it will grant students confidentiality. "This might have to be brought before a judge because of the differences in opinions," trustee Garry Genzlinger said. "According to the opinion, we're in violation but this is just an opinion until a judge makes a decision or until a law is changed." Genzlinger says that as a parent, he would want to know where his kids are. He gets the feeling the board feels the same way, but it doesn't want to be in violation of the law. The attorney general's opinion was in response to a question from the Solano County counsel. The El Dorado County Board of Education also requested the attorney general to discuss the matter further.