Fresno County Office of Education’s sex educator tells why teens need help making responsible decisions
A community transportation service that helps teens get sexual and reproductive health services has recently come into question by Fresno Unified Trustee Terry Slatic.
Slatic has brought up the issue at several board meetings, saying several of his constituents from the Bullard High area have come to him worried about their children being transported by non-FUSD staff off campus to receive health services. Slatic said he worries about district liability and the fact that students do not have parental permission to leave campus during school hours.
Slatic said he doesn’t have a problem with students getting reproductive health services, but said it’s a problem that parents have not given permission for their children to travel off campus.
“It’s not a birth control problem,” he told The Bee, “it’s who’s driving my daughter around town.”
Fresno Unified officials say although students are taught how to access clinic resources in sexual health classes, the school is not involved with the transportation service and state laws allow students to leave for medical purposes without a parent’s permission.
State laws let minors check themselves out of school
According to California minor consent laws, beginning at age 12, kids have the right to check themselves out of school for reproductive health appointments, and the school cannot notify or obtain permission from parents.
The transportation service in question is provided by the Fresno Economic Opportunities Commission, which offers free transportation to teens ages 12 to 19 years old who request services from the EOC downtown clinic on R and Tulare streets.
Fresno Unified spokeswoman Amy Idsvoog said students arrange their own appointments with the clinic. School and district staff are not involved, therefore, there is no liability to the school.
As part of sexual education courses, students are taught about accessing community resources and preventing pregnancy, Idsvoog said, but the teachers do not sign up the students for appointments or check them out of school.
“By law they can check themselves out from school for a confidential medical appointment,” she said.
Nasreen Johnson, a spokeswoman with the Fresno EOC, said about 100 students per month countywide take advantage of the transportation service, known as the Health Education and Recruitment Transportation Team, or HEARTT.
A pair of staffers, one male and one female, pick up and drop off the students at their schools. They have badges for identification purposes.
Students can access free birth control, pregnancy testing, HIV and STD testing and reproductive health services.
“We don’t go into the schools to sign up kids for these services, but folks teaching sex-ed know that we do this, nurses know that we do this,” Johnson said.
She said she believes the transportation keeps teens from taking riskier actions to get to the clinic, like accepting rides from others or coming alone on buses or walking.
“These are students who are taking responsibility for their actions,” Johnson said. “We can pretend what we want about these kids’ behavior, but they are already sexually active and they want to do it safely.”
Slatic said the opt-out option is not as clear as it should be for parents who don’t want their children to learn how to access services through sex-ed curriculum.
Carlos Castillo, instructional superintendent for FUSD, attempted to address Slatic’s concerns in a letter distributed to board members on Aug. 9: “Schools are provided with a parent letter in English, Spanish and Hmong with information for parents regarding upcoming comprehensive sexual health education lessons and direction about what to do if they do not wish for their child to participate.”
Letters are sent home two to three weeks before lessons start, Castillo said in the letter.