Parents, Beware of School-Based Health Centers

MA public schools are undermining parental rights at every turn by indoctrinating children in political and sexual ideologies being promoted in classrooms, school programs, and student clubs. As a result, children are being separated from their parents’ values. But captivating children’s hearts and minds is not enough. Schools want control of their bodies too. MA students are being given controversial medical services offered at school-based health centers (SBHCs) away from their parents’ oversight.  

Located in the school setting, SBHCs provide a wide range of primary health care services for students like nutrition counseling and treatment for acute injuries. While parents may appreciate the convenience of having their child’s health needs addressed at school, there are other services available at these centers they may be unaware of and may not want their child to receive. For instance, SBHCs also provide immunizations, mental health therapy, and referrals to other specialty providers. This may include pregnancy and STI tests, and referrals to abortion providers and local Gender Sexuality Alliance groups. Unsuspecting parents who sign general waivers at the beginning of the school year may not realize they have inadvertently given the school permission to refer their son or daughter for counseling, prescriptions for psychotropic drugs, birth control, or shockingly, even an abortion.  

The rules governing SBHCs in MA state that they must provide a comprehensive range of services that include “reproductive health services” such as gynecological exams, diagnosis, and treatment of STIs, family planning health education and services (code for birth control and abortion), and more. The same is true for mental health services as well. Students are referred “to a continuum of mental health services,” including prescription drugs. The rules also state that for services not provided on-site, SBHCs must arrange for the provision of such services off-site. This means an SBHC staff member may drive a student off campus to receive risky medical treatments during the school day and their parents may never know.  

Referring minors for life-altering medical and psychological interventions without the involvement of their parents puts children at risk. For example, a mother in Maryland was furious to find out that her 16-year-old daughter’s health issues were caused by a birth control implant inserted at the SBHC. The mother had no idea her daughter had received the implant. In another story, a Seattle mother discovered that during school hours her daughter was put in a taxi and brought for a secret abortion without parental notification. 

And SBHCs across the country are referring students for transgender hormone therapy and hiding it from parents too.  

In MA, the same risks to children exist at SBHCs. For instance, MFI worked with concerned parents in Lynn to help protect children from receiving free contraception without parents’ knowledge or consent. Unfortunately, the Lynn school committee voted to approve free contraception for students, despite parents’ objections. 

According to the mass.gov website, there are currently 42 SBHCs in 23 cities and towns across MA, mostly in high schools. A directory of locations can be found here. The program is funded by the MA Department of Health and is administered through partnerships between community health centers, hospitals, and local health departments. Parents should check the directory to see if their school district has an SBHC. 

Linda Thayer, a pro-life advocate, and retired science teacher with thirty-four years of service in Boston Public schools shares MFI’s worries about SBHCs. 

“One of the main concerns is that parents are not made aware of the more radical services that SBHCs may provide,” she said, “Parental consent forms typically have parents give authorization for SBHC staff ‘in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,’ without explaining to parents that the laws do allow minors to obtain contraceptives, IUDs, and abortions without parental knowledge or permission.” 

Here’s what parents should know about the laws governing access to their child’s medical information and treatment and how these laws apply to SBHCs: 

  • In general, parents in MA have the right to consent or withhold consent to medical treatment of their minor children. Healthcare providers have a duty to obtain informed consent from parents or guardians before treating a minor child.
  • There are a few exceptions to these rules, including emergency medical treatment, obtaining “family planning services” like contraception and abortion, treatment for substance abuse, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. In 2019, the legislature passed the ROE Act, which repealed parental consent requirements for abortion and now allows a minor who is 16 years old or older to obtain an abortion without parental consent. A minor who is under 16 can receive an abortion without parental consent if she obtains a judicial bypass. Also, minors aged 16 or older can commit themselves to a mental health facility.  
  • MA also recognizes the “mature minor rule,” whereby a minor can consent to their own treatment if a doctor believes it is in the best interest of the minor and the minor is sufficiently mature to consent. However, courts have said that for most non-emergency treatment, it is in the minor’s best interest to receive parental consent.
  • In general, parents have the right to access all of their children’s medical records. However, when a minor consents to their own treatment under one of the exceptions listed above, they have the right to keep the medical records related to that treatment confidential, even from parents.

In sum, these laws mean that minors may obtain some of the most serious types of healthcare interventions, such as contraception or abortion, from an SBHC without parental consent or even parental knowledge. However, for most other non-emergency treatments, including treatment related to gender identity issues, SBHCs must obtain parental consent under state law. It should be noted that when parents sign a general SBHC waiver they may be granting permission for these types of treatments for their children. In addition, parents have a right to obtain their children’s medical records in most circumstances.  

If you are concerned about an SBHC interfering with your rights to direct your child’s healthcare, you should consider doing two things:  

1. Do not sign any consent form to allow your child to receive medical treatment unless it is clear that the consent only applies to certain, limited treatments (such as receiving first aid). If you have already signed a broadly worded consent form, revoke it.  

2. Ask for all medical records in the possession of the SBHC that are related to your child. Make sure your child has not already received treatment without your consent.  

We encourage parents to be proactive and protect their children by not allowing them to receive medical and mental health services without their involvement. 

Part of MFI’s mission is to share important information like this with parents to help them safeguard their children. Support our efforts to protect the children of the Commonwealth. Donate today!

For our families,

Andrew Beckwith, President & General Counsel

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