Questioning confidential medical appointments

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Questioning confidential medical appointments

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Students have the legal right to leave school for confidential medical appointments.

Granite Bay High School’s website identifies absences for which a student may be legally excused from school. One of these includes “Pupils in grades 7-12 who leave school (with prior approval of the Principal or his/her designee) to obtain confidential medical services. The pupil is to return a copy of the medical professional’s appointment verification form.”

The reason for this statement is Education Code 48205 which requires school officials to excuse students from school to attend confidential medical appointments.

“The California Legislature and California Supreme Court recognized the importance of providing teenagers with the opportunity to confidentially access medical care in certain situations,” said RJHSD’s executive director of student services Brad Basham.  “Accordingly, the intent of the law is to protect and encourage minors to seek certain kinds of needed medical services.”

When a student leaves for a confidential medical appointment it is treated the same as any medical appointment absence wise. It is excused although the student is required to verify that they did leave school for a medical procedure.

In the U.S., school attendance is mandatory until a student turns 18 or graduates from high school, which can limit when a student can go to doctors appointments.

“We also know that you have to take care of life sometimes … and that’s okay so then as a student you don’t get penalized for taking care of your health,” said Jessup McGregor, Granite Bay High School’s assistant vice principal who oversees attendance.

It will be marked on file that the student left school so a parent could find out that they were absent, but the school is not allowed to say that the student missed class because of a confidential medical appointment.

“On each student’s attendance record we note on there that they went to a doctor’s appointment, but it doesn’t say on there anything about who they saw or why,” McGregor said.

The record is kept out of necessity in case the state decides to look into the school, in which case the records of where students are and why they are gone are needed.

According to Mary Van Hoomissen, who has worked as a nurse at schools for eighteen years, students do not leave for confidential medical appointments frequently.

“In my experience there are usually anywhere from zero to three students who will leave for a confidential medical appointment in a school year that I know of,” Van Hoomissen said.

Several years ago there was a push from students’ parents for the district to go against California state law and to not allow students to leave school for health appointments without notifying the students’ parents.

“I wasn’t a vice principal here during that time but, as a parent, it freaks me out that at age 12 my daughter can go to the doctor without my knowledge,” McGregor said. “I feel like she’s not old enough for that choice probably, and I imagine that’s where the parents were coming from.”

But as a VP, McGregor’s concern is with the students and their health first.

“We have to follow the law, and we do our best to be a go between the law and the parents and kids and sometimes those things are in conflict with each other.”  

There has not been a change in district policy from the parent’s urging for the school to violate state law.

“I tell them their rights and that the doctors can’t call their parents – they keep it confidential,” Van Hoomissen said. “I talk with them and do encourage them to talk with an adult in their life who they trust.”

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