A new program in the D.C. public schools has the potential to rile parents—that is, if they aren’t already angry about the government’s growing role in their kids’ health care decisions. Today’s Washington Post unveiled the District’s plans to test children as young as 12 for sexually transmitted diseases without their parents’ permission. The idea would build on a pilot program conducted at eight schools in 2008-09 which found that 13% of 3,000 students had contracted an STD.
To many families, this should bring back some hard feelings over the mandatory HPV vaccinations, which FRC led the fight against. The argument here is the same as it was then. While some children should be tested for STDs, the school should never come between kids and their parents on health matters. The research shows that the more open the communication between kids and parents on these issues, the less children are at risk. The kind of policy D.C. is debating would just facilitate teenagers keeping secrets from their parents, instead of having an honest dialogue with them. What next? Will the District use these urine specimens for pregnancy tests in which the “treatment” (read: abortion) is also kept from parents?
As one Board of Education member, William Lockridge, said, “Right now, if you play sports in a public school, you have to get permission from your parents. If you take a field trip, you have to get permission from your parents. Why would it be any less for this? … Only if the parent gives the consent upfront would I do this.” If these screenings go unchallenged, the instances of schools overstepping their bounds are bound to spread like a disease.
Tony Perkins heads the Family Research Council. This article was excerpted from the Washington Update that he compiles for the FRC.