Petaluma School Board Debates Policy Allowing Student Absences for Confidential Reproductive Health Services
A Petaluma school board policy that permits students to leave school grounds without parental consent for "confidential medical services," including STD treatment, birth control and abortions, is being challenged by parents and the newest member of the school board, the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat reports. Officials say that the student absence policy in Petaluma, which is permitted under a California law "allow[ing] schools to excuse absences for certain medical services," has been "on the books -- and unchallenged" -- for more than a decade. But Petaluma parents and Deborah Orr Sloan, who was elected to the five-member school board last year, object to the policy, saying that it leaves parents "clean out of the loop." Although the most recent version of the policy says that school nurses should encourage students to discuss their confidential medical services with their parents and seek care with their family physician, neither is mandatory, and nurses maintain the "authority" to excuse a student without parental consent or knowledge. An average of 10 of the 5,300 Petaluma junior high and high school students are excused annually for confidential medical services, according to Carl Wong, Petaluma city schools superintendent; six of the absences were granted last year. The board will continue to discuss the issue, but it will not make a final decision on changes to the policy for "at least two months" (Kovner, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, 11/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.