Jessica Baggott | firstname.lastname@example.org | April 11, 2019
In order to protect the students interviewed for this article, their real names have been changed to Hannah, Emma, and Madison.
By the later years of high school, many students have gone through countless sexual education classes, their first relationships, and started to establish a large degree of independence from their parents. Despite this, many are afraid to take their health into their own hands: sexual or otherwise.
What most people don’t know is that without their parent’s consent or knowledge, they can get an excused absence from school to attend a medical appointment at a hospital or clinic. These rights are protected by California State Law including California Penal Codes, California Family Codes, California Health and Safety Codes, and California Education Codes (click here for details). Students of all genders can use these laws to access sexual health services such as contraceptives, STD testing, and education, but these laws also apply to mental health appointments, drug and alcohol treatment, and anything related to child abuse. Furthermore, the school is not allowed to require parental consent, or even notify parents when a student requests a Confidential Medical Release.
Although your first visit to a sexual health clinic can be daunting, you would not be the first or last d.tech student to use these laws. After wanting to get birth control without her parent’s knowledge, senior Hannah researched her rights as a teenager and found an article that explained the Confidential Medical Release. Hannah was the first student to introduce the laws to the school.
Hannah reports that the hardest part of the experience was simply calling in to schedule the appointment. “I made the call in school, in a breakout room, and I was talking so quietly because I didn’t want anyone to hear me.” Although taking this step was very scary for Hannah, she explains that it becomes easier “once you make it and you’re around people who are happy to help normalize it and be there for you in whatever decision you make.”
Additionally, Hannah offers up the point that “The people who work at the clinic, it’s their job, it’s what they do, every single day.” Hannah continues that “You’re just another customer. And even though that makes you sound not special in a way, that’s relieving because it’s not like all eyes are on you.”
“The people who work at the clinic, it’s their job, it’s what they do, every single day.”
When Hannah found out that one of her friends, Emma, was in need of birth control and didn’t want her parents to find out, she explained the existence of these laws to her. Soon after, Emma used these laws to go to Planned Parenthood and receive birth control.
Much like Hannah, who says her reasoning for not telling her parents about the birth control is religious differences, Emma explains that if her mom found out, she “would tell my grandmother and my grandmother is [very religious] and she believes that if you sin, you will go to Hell.” Emma continues that “I don’t want to hear that from my family who I know cares about me but who I know will judge me for it.”
Emma reports conversations with her mother about high school students having sex, where her mother said something along the lines of: “‘That’s disgusting, I can’t believe they’re so young and they’re doing that!’” She continues with the question of “How do you think that makes me feel? I still can’t tell her because if she’s saying that about my friends, what do you think she’d think if I was doing that?”
“I still can’t tell her because if she’s saying that about my friends, what do you think she’d think if I was doing that?”
d.tech senior Madison went to Planned Parenthood with her older sister on a weekend. “She was my support system throughout the whole thing. She took me there and made me feel really comfortable and did most of the talking because I was so scared.” Madison’s older sister had gone a few years earlier to get the same birth control method/procedure that Madison was hoping to get: an IUD.
After going with her sister, Madison then felt confident enough to help her friends in getting the medical attention needed in order to have safe sex. Madison highlights the fact that you can easily call a Planned Parenthood office in order to get any questions you have answered. Additionally, by going to the Planned Parenthood website, you will also easily find many useful resources and answers.
To get an excused absence and promise of confidentiality from the school, simply check yourself out at the front desk and explicitly tell front desk receptionist Abbie Rosete that this is a confidential appointment. Next, go to your appointment by getting a ride with a friend, taking public transport, or through other means. While there, get a note from the doctor, proving that you went. When you return to school, simply give the note to Rosete.
Additionally, through a government program called Family PACT, low income men and women, including teenagers who make little to no money, can receive access to health information, counseling, and family planning services. Under the Family PACT, people can get free contraceptives.
By following this process, your parents cannot find out about your visit to Planned Parenthood or other medical facilities, and you will get an excused absence from school.
d.tech Counselor Molly Robertson asks anyone who is in need of advice or guidance to talk to her and explains that “The goal of the law is not to sneak around parents or to pit students against parents or put them in a dangerous situation, it’s really to make sure that everyone can access the medical support that they need.” Robertson emphasizes that “Depending on the relationship a person has with their family, it may not be safe to tell them [about an appointment]. It could be an issue of actual safety for a student if their parents found and that’s why the confidentiality is really important.”
If you have any questions about this subject or want to be put into contact with a student that has done this before, talk to me, Jessica Baggott or email me at email@example.com. Additional support can be found in d.tech counseling department, specifically Molly Robertson, firstname.lastname@example.org or room 202.