Your Rights at School
Confidential Medical Release
What if I have a medical appointment during school hours?
California law requires schools to excuse students for certain medical appointments, such as those related to mental health care, STI testing, drug treatment, sexual assault treatment, pregnancy, contraception, and abortion. You have the right to access this care for yourself at any age or starting at age 12, depending on the type of care. See here for details. Schools must keep information about your appointment confidential, even from your parents or guardians. Your school must let you go to your appointment and cannot notify your parents or try to get your parents’ permission. However, the school can record your absence as excused, without any details about why you were gone, and your parents may be able to inspect your attendance record. Your school can call the doctor or clinic to confirm you have an appointment and the appointment’s time, but cannot ask about the kind of care you are receiving. (Some schools have an automatic system to alert parents that their children are absent from school. You should check with your school before your appointment to make sure they won’t violate your confidentiality.)
When you talk to the attendance administrator at school, let them know you have a confidential medical appointment. “It’s my legal right to a confidential medical appointment, and the school cannot notify my parents or ask about the type of care I am accessing. Please let me know if there are any steps I need to take to ensure that the school won’t violate my legal right to confidentiality.” If you think your school might violate your confidentiality, contact the ACLU at 415-621-2488.
Where can I learn more about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy prevention?
Public schools must teach comprehensive sexual health education at least once in middle school and at least once in high school. Sex ed instruction must be appropriate for students of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and students with disabilities; it must be medically accurate and it cannot promote religion. Starting in grade 7, sex ed must provide information about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and the effectiveness of all FDA-approved birth control methods. (See What You Need To Know: Emergency Contraception.) Sex ed must also focus on healthy attitudes, healthy behaviors, and healthy relationships.
To learn more about these topics on your own, you can go to www.sexetc.org, www.teensource.org or www.plannedparenthood.org/teens. If you think your school teaches bad or incomplete sex ed, we can help; please contact the ACLU of CA at 415-621-2488.
Pregnancy, Parenting, and Breastfeeding at School
It’s your right to keep going to school while you’re pregnant and after your baby is born. It’s against the law for schools to treat you differently because you’re pregnant or a parent. Your school must allow you to take a medical leave for pregnancy or childbirth and must allow you to return without any academic setback. Some schools have special programs for teen parents. But you do not have to change schools or classes just because you’re pregnant or parenting.
If you are a parent who is breastfeeding or pumping breastmilk, you can do this on your school campus. Your school must let you use a private, secure room to breastfeed or pump, and give you reasonable time away from the classroom. You also must be allowed to bring a pump and store your pumped milk on campus. If your school is not allowing you to pump breastmilk during the school day, we can help: please contact the ACLU of CA at 415-621-2488.
For more information about pregnancy, check out www.pregnantyouth.org.
For more information about your rights at school, check out www.myschoolmyrights.com.