School district should ask parents before allowing medical tests on kids
Ryan Summerlin February 13, 2013
It is concerning, to say the least, when any governmental agency collects body fluids from my child without my consent. I don’t care whether the law says you can or cannot do this. The right answer is don’t, unless you ask me first or have a darn good reason not to obtain my consent.
Park City School District, however, did just this. They allowed an organization to draw body cells from students by swab for analysis in a university study. The students completed and signed a questionnaire that was then attached to the bag that contained their samples.
Parents weren’t asked to consent to this testing. No emergency required that it be done.
I believe this was an incredible mistake, and yet I know mistakes happen. But when a parent complained in this paper, the PCSD board president and school superintendent went on the radio defending and justifying this conduct. It was "by the book" and entirely legal, they said.
The parent simply requested that the school get our okay from now on and delay a second test until parents were informed and consented. The board said no.
That response inappropriate. The law permits many things, a good deal of which are dumb and provocative. How would you respond if parents came to the high school carrying assault rifles in today’s environment? Yet, in Utah, they have that right, but none are, I hope, that stupid.
The response was, second, incorrect. The right to collect fluids and tissues from a student’s body without parental consent is not settled law. Our Supreme Court has several cases before it this term, which will specifically address our constitutional right to privacy and the fidelity we may expect surrounding our bodies. In fact, the court will address the exact procedure the district used to gather cells from our kids without our consent.
The constitutionally protected rights of privacy to, and control over, our bodies, are emotionally charged. As parents, we exercise these rights on behalf of our children. People active in issues of women’s’ choice, stem-cell harvesting and use, and mandatory vaccination all fully appreciate the gravity of, and sensitivity toward, these rights.
The district’s response shook me deep enough that I contacted the legal firm representing this matter before the Supreme Court. Notably they felt, at first blush, that the district’s conduct and response was surprising. And yet the matter would likely have ended had the parent’s valid concerns been acknowledged. I have two children at the high school, and did not even know the tests and surveys were being conducted on our kids.
Well-intentioned mistakes do happen. But apparently this was no mistake. The district believes it has the right to permit third-party medical testing on our children without our consent. I urge the district to reconsider. Parents deserve to be fully informed of any medical test conducted upon their children and to affirmatively consent to these tests. This is basic.
The legal climate is not so clear as the district suggests. Rather, the district is flirting with a lawsuit where, if they are wrong, they may be assessed significant costs and attorney fees in addition to damages. This we cannot afford. Why be provocative when common courtesy would satisfy all?