Why does Wellness notify my parents?

Per a revised RJUHSD policy, RJUHSD parents will be notified anytime their child accesses school mental health services during class time.
This is the notification a Gazette staffers parent received less than an hour after their student visited the Wellness Center.
This is the notification a Gazette staffer’s parent received less than an hour after their student visited the Wellness Center.
Rachel Guo

Parental notification policy changes weren’t on many students’ minds when they left for February break. In many cases, the notification email from the Roseville Joint Union High School (RJUHSD) board sat unopened. 

When students returned from break on Feb. 26, RJUHSD administration informed them via email that if they miss class time to see their school counselor or visit the Wellness Center, their parents will be notified under Administrative Regulation 5020: Parents Rights and Responsibilities. Confidentiality around what in particular the student did or discussed at the Wellness Center is still protected under California minor consent laws and California Ed Code 49602

The Gazette asked RJUHSD Board President Pete Constant, “Would the only circumstance where a student’s parents wouldn’t be notified is if they didn’t go during class time?”

“Yes, that’s correct,” Constant said.

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What differences are there between Rocklin Unified School District and Roseville Joint Union High School District’s parental notification policies?

 

Comparison between the two school districts surfaced during public comment at several RJUHSD Board Meetings where the Board discussed and amended their parental notification policies.

Since Rocklin Unified School District (RUSD) passed its parental notification policy last September, many, including California Attorney General Rob Bonta, have voiced concern that the policy will forcibly out transgender students.

‘We did not work with Rocklin (Unified School District) in any way on this policy,” Constant said.

Unlike RJUHSD’s policy, RUSD’s policy specifies what a “timely notification” for parents means (the notification must occur within three school days). Moreover, it explicitly mentions notifying parents when a student changes how they express their gender identity. The RUSD currently faces lawsuits from the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association and the California Department of Education for “unlawful discrimination by enacting an inequitable policy that was discriminatory in nature towards marginalized students.”

We stand out in the state… as being the only district that has not been challenged in any way whether legally or administratively.”

— RJUHSD Board President Pete Constant

“We stand out in the state… as being the only district that has not been challenged in any way whether legally or administratively,” Constant said. “We’re not saying that if you belong to this group or that group, we’re going to have these policies apply to you. Our policy is universal.”

After receiving requests from community members both in favor and against the concept of parental notification policies, the RJUHSD Board began their discussion on parental rights at the Sept. 28 meeting. The Board revised its parental notification policies at the Nov. 9 meeting

This isn’t the first time parental notification policies have caused conflict in the RJUHSD.

The school district…has (created) a policy that potentially jeopardizes additional supports for LGBTQ students. They don’t have to say it in words for people to see the pattern… of the board’s priorities; LGBTQ students are not high on that list at all.”

— ACLU Staff Attorney Jennifer Chou

In 2003, the RJUHSD Board voted to overturn a policy –against advice that it violated state law– that allowed students to leave for confidential medical appointments (often related to a student’s sexual health, mental health, or substance abuse) without parental consent. Now, according to “Annual Parent Notifications 2023-24,” RJUHSD “pupils enrolled in grades 7 through 12 may be excused from school by school authorities for the purpose of obtaining confidential medical services without the consent of the pupil’s parent.” RJUHSD parents can still see in Aeries Attendance that their student wasn’t in class for an excused absence (marked “X”). 

Last March, the RJUHSD informed the community that The Landing Spot, a LGBTQ+ support non-profit organization, could no longer meet on RJUHSD following community allegations that Loomis Basin Congregational United Church of Christ pastor and Landing Spot founder Casey Tinnin was grooming children.

As of this article’s publication, the RJUHSD has never formally investigated The Landing Spot, and appears to have no plans for its reinstatement. Western Placer Unified School District and Placer Union High School District’s respective investigations cleared  The Landing Spot and Pastor Tinnin of  Project Veritas’ and some community members’ allegations: WPUHSD’s investigative report states, “We received no evidence that Pastor Tinnin, either during or outside the five Lincoln High School meetings, engaged in any efforts to recruit, indoctrinate, convert, brainwash or groom students into a certain belief, identity or lifestyle. There is a complete absence of evidence that Pastor Tinnin engaged in any conduct that was inappropriate towards youth, including pedophilia, at Lincoln High School or any other campus.”  

 “When looking at the intent of a policy, it’s not just what it says on its face,” Jennifer Chou said when asked about the impact of the RJUHSD’s revised parental notification policy. Chou is an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union who specializes in cases regarding LGBTQ+ education and rights, said. “The Landing Spot was removed from the Wellness Centers…The school district…has (created) a policy that potentially jeopardizes additional supports for LGBTQ students. They don’t have to say it in words for people to see the pattern… of the board’s priorities; LGBTQ students are not high on that list at all.”

What happens now if a student visits Wellness?

Since Feb. 26, if a student comes in and requests to speak with Wellness Center staff during class time (whether it’s a drop-in visit or a planned counseling session), their parents will be notified through Aeries attendance (typically via email or a text message). When a Gazette staffer went to the Wellness Center during class, their parents received this text notification within the hour:

 “Hello, this is Granite Bay High School. Your child, ( the Gazette staffer’s name), has been marked as visiting the wellness center today. If you have any questions regarding this visit, please ask your student.”

“It’s really important to understand that our California Education Code has always required that parents be notified if a student misses school,” Constant said. “When they miss instructional time…Education Code 51101.1 requires us to notify parents…If a student were to go during lunch, before school, or after school, there’s no mandatory notification of the parent.”  

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RJUHSD Wellness Center data shows that nearly 1000 Wellness Center referrals for individual or group services took place in the district in the 2022-23 academic year compared to 761 Wellness referrals made this school year. Last year, GBHS had the highest number of referrals (191) in the district. This number does not include drop-ins.

How have students reacted to the policy?

All responses were taken from the aforementioned Gazette survey. These were a few of the many randomly selected respondents who answered the survey’s open-ended questions on the RJUHSD’s parental notification policy. The responses selected most closely represent the spectrum of student opinion. (Sarah Yee)

The Gazette, with the guidance of GBHS AP Statistics teacher Bruce Honberger, performed a stratified random sample. Out of the entire student body, we selected 25 students per grade. Our goal was to observe and better understand the varying perspectives and awareness students had on the RJUHSD’s updated parental notification policy, the Wellness Center, and their general communication with their parents concerning their mental health. Below are quantitative summaries of the data we gathered.

 

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  • In your time at GBHS, how often do you frequent the wellness center?

  • Were you aware of “Board Policy 5020 and Administrative Regulation 5020 Parent’s Rights and Responsibilities?”

  • Are your parents/guardians aware of Board Policy 5020 and Administrative Regulation 5020 Parent’s Rights and Responsibilities?

  • If you went to the wellness center or visited a school counselor, would you want your parents to know?

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Two GBHS students- one speaking to the Board and the other serving on it -represented the most common perspectives the Gazette heard from GBHS students on the policy.

Sophomore Fynn Gaillard spoke at the Sept. 28 RJUHSD Board meeting against the policy. Gaillard urged the Board to consider the ramifications it could have on the LGBTQ+ community and reminded them of the legal controversy the RUSD’s policy, which passed three weeks earlier, had stirred. Gaillard, who is the Co-President of GBHS’ Gay Straight Alliance (GSA), said he visits the GBHS Wellness Center anywhere from once a month to once or twice a week. Mostly during class time.

If you’re having to pass policies through a school board so that you can have a deeper understanding of what goes on in your children’s in terms of their mental health and development and their identity. That’s messed up,” Gaillard said.

GBHS senior Lindsay Trythall served as one of two elected student board representatives when the parental notification policy was discussed last fall. 

 “I believe what the board members decided is what is best for our community. I do believe most parents are good and just want what is best for their children and they can only do that when they are informed about what is going on in their child’s life; however, I also know that not everyone has a loving home where they are accepted so I’m glad the board created an exception to notifying parents if it ‘creates a clear and present danger to the student.'” Trythall said in a statement to the Gazette, referencing BP0470.

BP0470 is now called BP0260. The phrase Trythall quotes, which creates an exception to parental notification, was omitted from the final version of the policy.

What happened to this exception?

An earlier version of BP0260 called BP0470 stated one exception to parental notification: “However, if notifying the parent/guardian creates a clear and present danger to the student, no notification to the parent/guardian is required, but the school counselor/psychologist must record the specific basis for his or her belief that a clear and present danger exists.” 

Meeting minutes from RJUHSD Dec. 14 Board Meeting show that Board Member Marla Franz proposed to edit AR 5020.1 Parents Rights and Responsibilities in multiple ways, including removing the aforementioned exception entirely. 4 other RJUHSD Board Members, including Constant, voted to pass BP0470 (now renumbered by the Board as BP0260) with Franz’s edits. 

The Gazette asked if students could currently confidentially receive services from the Wellness Center without parental notification if they weren’t endangered by their parents knowing but knew their parents would disapprove because of cultural reasons. Constant said, “Probably not. To be honest with you, federal law doesn’t afford that level of confidentiality…​​While minor consent laws are contained in California law, the parental rights are contained in federal law and when there’s a conflict between state and federal law federal law prevails– particularly when there are Supreme Court cases that clarify that.”

RJUHSD Assistant Superintendent in Student Services Melanie Dopson said in situations where any RJUHSD staff believes parental notification would endanger the child, then as mandated reporters, they’re required to alert Child Protective Services (CPS) per BP 5141.4 – Child Abuse Prevention and Reporting. Parental notification then, is not the district’s first priority and is determined by the professionals involved.

Parental notification occurs in all other cases where CPS is not involved.

What California student rights exist? 

Minor consent is no longer a service that students have access to in the district.”

— Sabrina Vella, RJUHSD Wellness and Prevention Coordinator

Until the policy was implemented, students were eligible for minor consent (meaning they could receive counseling without parental involvement or consent) in situations that fell under the provisions specified in California Health and Safety Code Section 124260 and California Family Code 6924. According to the latter, minor consent applies if  “The minor would be in danger of serious physical or mental harm to themselves or others without treatment, or the minor is the alleged victim of incest or child abuse.” (6924)  

“Minor consent is no longer a service that students have access to in the district,” Sabrina Vella, an RJUHSD Wellness and Prevention Coordinator, said. “If students are at risk of hurting themselves, hurting others, or someone is hurting them they can drop into the Wellness Center and ask to talk to someone at any time. Under the new board policy, they would not be able to receive ongoing support for those concerns through the Wellness Center unless their parents sign a consent form.”

As a Coordinator, Vella provides clinical supervision and oversight to the staff and all services in the Wellness Center. Coordinators do not provide direct therapy but supervise the individuals who are providing therapy in the Wellness Center. Next school year, the number of RJUHSD Wellness Coordinators will decrease from three to two.

Vella said the language on the Wellness Center’s existing informed consent for counseling services form will also change to reflect the new board policy. Beginning in the next school year, the consent form to receive services in the Wellness Center will be expanded from one page to three pages to better incorporate parents into the process of their student(s) receiving services.  

We asked legal experts about minor consent: 

The policy is in clear violation of the law.”

— Abigail Trillin, Stanford Law School’s Youth and Education Law Project

Without minor consent, a student’s ability to access the help that they need immediately could be severely limited because of cultural or socioeconomic barriers, Abigail Trillin, a Clinical Supervising Attorney and Lecturer in Law for Stanford Law School’s Youth and Education Law Project (YELP) told the Gazette. 

“The policy is in clear violation of the law,” Trillin said. Current California law allows the mental health professional, after consultation with the minor, to make a determination about whether informing the parent would be in the minor’s best interest. That means that…sometimes parents will not be informed if there are reasons that would make informing parents detrimental to the minor.” 

Rebecca Gudeman – Senior Director for Health at the National Center for Youth Law– agreed with Trillin about the need for minor consent. 

There’s a million different reasons (for minor consent) that fall far short of abuse.”

— Rebecca Gudeman, National Center for Youth Law

“There’s a million different reasons (for minor consent) that fall far short of abuse,” Gudeman said. 

She pointed to a case the National Center for Youth Law had counseled for where a teenage girl needed to use minor consent because her single, working mother couldn’t answer the phone to consent to services. 

“We’re really talking about something that may or may not impact the majority of students, but for the students, for whom it matters, it’s a huge deal,” Gudeman said.  “We wrote a minor consent law in California because we recognize there’s that space there between abuse, good solid parents and kids who sometimes just can’t work with their parents immediately to get access to care.”

Seventeen RJUHSD students who previously received counseling under California’s minor consent laws in the 2022-23 school year will no longer be able to do so unless they get parental consent, Vella said.

“Since the new board policies began, I have been told a handful of students at different sites…come in and read the notification and then (turn) around and (leave) and (not wanting) to talk to anybody after that,” Vella said. “We also encountered students crying in the hallways (that) said that they didn’t want to come to the Wellness Center or talk to a counselor because of the new notification.”

What other counseling options exist? 

As stated earlier, per California’s Health and Safety Code (section 124260) and Family Code Section, a minor 12 or older may consent to mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis. Although there are no exceptions to parental consent to receive counseling within the district, Dopson said RJUHSD students can access counseling outside of the district through RJUHSD’s Care Solace referral link. RJUHSD expedites the wait time but any services provided are not affiliated with nor paid by the district, Dopson said. 

 

 

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About the Contributors
Sarah Yee
Sarah Yee, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Sarah is a senior and Co-Editor-in-Chief. This is her fourth year on the Gazette staff.
Sophie Nguyen
Sophie Nguyen, Editor
Sophie is a junior and Opinions Editor. This is her third year on the Gazette staff.
Rachel Guo
Rachel Guo, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Rachel is a junior and Co-Editor-in-Chief. This is her third year on the Gazette staff.

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