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San Diego Unified School District HIV Aligning District Policies With Minor Consent
Over 50 years ago, California established medical emancipation statutes to ensure that minors could access medical care for specific conditions, usually involving sexual health or other sensitive issues. To comply with these statutes, the California Attorney General released an opinion (1983 and 2004) stating that students in grades 7-12 have a right to be released from school to seek sensitive medical treatment during the school day without parental consent, and that schools must keep such services confidential.
SDUSD had two policies in place that were not in accordance with state law or the Attorney General’s opinion. In 2003 the HIV Resource Teacher brought this issue to the attention of the legal department and asked that the policies be updated to comply with state law. Over the next seven years, the Sex Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) and partner agencies advocated for these changes. Due to high turnover in management, including four new superintendents, the policies were left unchanged for seven years.
In 2009 the HIV Resource Teacher met with the newly hired General Counsel for the District. When presented with seven years of documentation, he made a commitment to change the policies during the 2009- 2010 school year.
The HIV Resource Teacher worked with Planned Parenthood, the National Center of Youth Law, SDUSD Nursing department and SDUSD Counseling department to draft a new policy. Nurses and counselors were identified as key personnel that would be involved in releasing students and ensuring confidentiality in accordance with their professional license/credentials. Prior to the board meeting, a representative from Planned Parenthood met with each school board member to explain the law and the new policies to ensure their support.
On March 30, 2010, the San Diego Unified School District unanimously adopted a change to board policies dealing with sensitive medical services and minor confidentiality. Staff from the nursing, counseling and HIV Prevention programs developed guidelines to help site staff interpret and follow the new policies. Students in SDUSD can now leave school grounds to seek confidential medical services and guaranteed privacy when discussing sexual health issues.