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Back to June Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 233 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS JUNE 2005

Parental Consent Vetoed For Mental Health Tests
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Efforts to require parental consent for mental health screening in schools were dealt a setback in late April when Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano vetoed a bill passed by the legislature for that purpose.

Calling the bill "overbroad," the governor axed S.B. 1270 on the ground that it "could be construed to apply to a variety of everyday questions that teachers should (and do) pose to children" and "may unduly restrict the ability of teachers and administrators to react in emergency or crisis situations where students pose a threat to the safety of themselves or others."

How the bill could have either effect alleged by Gov. Napolitano is unclear. The bill required parental notification and consent only for "behavioral or mental health screening," requests for disclosure of "personal information about the pupil's or pupil's family's behavioral or mental health history," or any required "survey, assessment, screening, analysis or evaluation used to detect any behavioral or mental disorder or illness."

Arizona Sen. Karen Johnson (R-Mesa), one of the bill's sponsors, said she was "dismayed" by the veto and vowed to push the bill again next year. "Is it so difficult for the governor to appreciate that parents are the ones responsible for making judgments about their children's well-being, not school officials and bureaucrats?" she asked in a commentary in the Arizona Republic (5-2-05).

Support for a parental-consent requirement for school-based mental health screening is picking up steam in light of the recommendations of the New Freedom Commission on Mental Health created by President George W. Bush in 2002. The commission recommends "routine and comprehensive" mental health screening and testing for every child in America. (See Education Reporter, May and Feb. 2005.)


 
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