S.D. Unified Schools Change Pregnancy Policy
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April 2, 2010 – The San Diego Unified School Board unanimously voted to change its rules requiring parental notification if a student is pregnant or considering an abortion. We talk to Education Reporter Ana Tintocalis about why the city school district changed its rules, and the pregnancy policies that are in place in another local district.
Related story: S.D. Unified Schools Change Pregnancy Policy
GLORIA PENNER (Host): This week there were no public protests when the San Diego Unified School Board unanimously voted to change some sensitive rules regarding requiring parental notification if a student were pregnant or considering an abortion. KPBS reporter Ana Tintocolis fills us in on what happened. So Ana, how did the San Diego Unified School District change its policies on students leaving campus to obtain confidential medical services? ANA TINTOCALIS (Reporter): Well there were laws on the books in San Diego Unified that said that if a school worker found out that a student was pregnant or was considering, that school worker whether it’s a nurse, counselor or teacher, would be required to tell the parent or the principal at the school. In addition to that, if a student wanted to leave campus to obtain a confidential medical service pertaining to their reproductive health, they would first have to get their parents' permission to leave campus to do so. All that has changed now to where a student's pregnancy is kept confidential between a school worker and that student. Students also now, if they want to obtain confidential medical services, they can do so without their parents' permission during school hours. PENNER: What qualifies as a confidential medical service? What are we talking about? TINTOCALIS: Right, so a confidential medical services can pertain to reproductive health issues such as STD tests or prenatal care. PENNER: STD, sexual transmitted disease… TINTOCALIS: …Sexually transmitted diseases. It could also apply to if a student is suffering from drug or alcohol abuse problems; they can leave campus to get services to take care of that or counsel them through that as well as mental health issues. So it deals with those types of confidential medical services. PENNER: This seems like a major change. Why did they change the policy? TINTOCALIS: Well, in fact, in California, there is a state law that really protects the privacy of minors. And so the district was trying to fall in line with that state law that protects minors' privacy. There's also a state attorney general's opinion on the matter saying students do have these rights and schools need to change their laws to fall in line with these decisions. However, the issue with this is that some school districts decide not to revise their policy and let the policy stand as it is, meaning parents have a say-so in the matter. For example in Vista Unified, they decided not to revise their policy and just kinda stick to the law that was on the books that basically did not allow students to leave campus to get confidential medical services without their parents' permission. PENNER: So is Vista clearly a violation of state law now? TINTOCALIS: In its -- It also falls down on interpretations. A big camp of people say, yes Vista is violating the state law and they're opening themselves up to law suits. Vista will say, you know, it's our interpretation of the law; we're a local school district, we have authority in these matters and we're sticking by the policy that we feel really speaks to what parents want in the district. PENNER: It's interesting, I heard just today that a 25 percent of San Diego Unified School District's population are single moms. So already, you do have a pretty large number of girls who have gotten pregnant. How will this new policy affect pregnant teens? TINTOCALIS: So say if I'm a pregnant teenager and I'm afraid to tell my parents – and this is what these laws are really aimed to protect, students, teenagers who are afraid to tell parents because there's issues in the home. Whether it’s an abusive parent, a broken home, perhaps their parent would force them to have a child, perhaps their parent would force them to have an abortion. So, a student who is now pregnant now has the right to take matters into his or her own hands and say, this is what I'm going to decide to do, it's going to be kept confidential, and they might be more comfortable telling a nurse or counselor or their teacher in the matter. So it gives them more protections. PENNER: Considering the major uproar we've had recently over the health care reform and the abortion issues there, why has – let's put it this way, what has the public response been to this change? TINTOCALIS: Well it's quite interesting as you said, there was no public outcry in San Diego Unified, I was expecting some controversy quite frankly, but I think it's because they schools are on Spring Break. So you have a lot of families just kind of spending time on their own, distracting themselves away school district matters. So that is part of the reason. When I reported on this issue initially in Vista, there was a huge public outcry. There were parents coming to the school board meetings, saying how dare you say that my not tell me these very important decision. So I think it was a matter of timing, but I also think it’s the nature and culture of a school district. Some school districts are more conservative in nature than others and San Diego Unified is increasingly becoming a more liberal district in many of its policies. PENNER: Well I thank you very much, Ana Tintocalis. TINTOCALIS: Thank you.