"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Thursday, October 3, 2013

Kindergarten - No One Gets In Without A Health Form

Another cautionary tale for parents regarding the data that schools are asking for.

I personally have held a Ghandi-esque crusade against the collection of health data on my children over the last several years. Like the mother below, I am completely in charge of my children's health needs. As a stay at home mom I am prepared to come get my children from school, at any time, should any health emergency arise and handle it myself. I do not expect the school to take over that responsibility, hence they do not need to know every little detail about my child's health. Thus, in the past I have filled in only the information that I deemed necessary for the school to know, in many cases simply writing in "normal" instead of providing details. As I predicted, the school only looked to see that the spaces were not blank and did not care about the actual information there. I was never called to provide more details.

However, the letter below from a mother in Utah indicates that I might need to change my position to outright defiance of such health information requests. At some point we must draw the line in the sand and make it clear that the system has no right to ask for, let alone require, such detailed personal information about our kids, just because they want to go to public school. If we fail to hold this line, our only option will be what this mother is considering - yanking them out and teaching them ourselves.

HEALTH FORMS – Because I’ve been concerned with CC for some time now, I was hyper-aware of my rights as a parent when it came time to register my youngest for Kindergarten this past August. The usual form asking for name, address, emergeny contact info etc. was mailed, but it also was attached to three separate health forms I “had” to get doctors to fill out. One was a physical health sheet, asking for things like height, weight, eye color, blood type. The next was a form for the dentist to fill out, asking for 3 things, including whether my child had fluoride treatments and if his teeth were abnormal in any way. The third was for an eye exam.

When parents stop and think about what the schools actually need to know in order to teach their child(ren), none of this makes sense. When parents finally realize that the school district DOES NOT take the place of parents, it’s beyond maddening. I REFUSED TO FILL THESE FORMS OUT. Any of them!

I marched over to the elementary school office with the first page filled out in the registration packet only, and handed it to the secretary. When she flipped through the papers and noticed everything else was blank, she told me I’d have to get the rest done before my son could be registered. When I told her I wasn’t going to be getting the rest filled out, she told me that was “just procedure” for all kids, and that the info would be kept private. I asked her how she could promise me that when the district asked for that info, not this school in particular. She didn’t have an answer, so she called the Principal to the office.

The Principal took me into her office and shut the door. She asked what my concerns were with the registration papers. I told her I didn’t believe any health information on my child was necessary to teach him. I told her also that as his parent, I am very capable of making sure his health needs are taken care of, and that if he needed glasses, hearing aids, etc., I would be the one to get it done, and in the event that my son DID need medication, additional medical appliances that the school needed to be aware of, I would notify them. Other than that, I told her, that was HIS private information, and they were not going to have it under any circumstance.

When I told the Principal this, she asked me, “Are you worried that if you take your son to the doctor that he’ll find something wrong with him?” I knew then that she saw my refusal to comply as unacceptable or unreasonable. I explained again that I was certain that my child was completely healthy and able to learn, but that I didn’t believe the school district needed to know his weight or blood type in order to teach him. She tried to tell me that these forms were given to her by the district, that she didn’t have anything to do with them, and everyone needed to follow the rules in order to do anything in life. She explained that she followed rules, and that she was aware that if she wanted something for her or her kids, she knew that certain rules applied and she was okay with that. I replied that I am a very staunch believer in rules, as long as they are justified and served a righteous purpose. At length I finally told her that I had NO problem homeschooling my son if these forms were necessary to enter Kindergarten.

That’s when she asked me, “So you’re familiar with Common Core, then?” At that moment I understood that the health forms were PART of Common Core. I told her I was familiar with Common Core, but still learning. She told me that CC would unify all schools, and make it SO much easier for transferring students to be on the same page. I replied that I didn’t like that my children would be treated like numbers, and that gov’t had no right to mandate what or how my children were taught. I FULLY expected her to retaliate and lie to me like everyone else who says, “Oh but our teachers DO get a say, they get to choose what and how they teach, etc. etc.” She simply shrugged and said, “Well, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it.” Basically telling me that was right.
I left her office with her telling me that she’d have to call “student services” at the school district level and ask if it was okay that I didn’t fill out these health forms. Again, I reiterated that if I “had” to fill them out, I’d be filling out a different form to file with the state allowing me to homeschool.
Thirty minutes later, the secretary called my cell phone and left a message telling me that the health forms were NOT mandatory, and that all I needed to bring in was my proof of residence and vaccination exemption form in order to complete the registration process.


Tricia - Utah Parent

Tricia's principal seemed willing to acknowledge a parent's rights. Another principal in Connecticut told the parent that such information was necessary because the school was the "ad litem parent." This was clearly an attempt to bully a parent with legal verbiage that was, in fact, flat out wrong. A guardian ad litem is a person legally appointed, through court petition, to act on behalf of a minor specifically in a law suit or legal action. Enrolling your child in public school fulfills none of these conditions. Parents need to be prepared to ask questions and push back like this mother did.

Administrators should be required to show you where in the district's policy manual such conditions or requirements are spelled out. They should be able to site state statute or federal law that requires your compliance. They should be more than happy to comply with these requests since it takes responsibility off of them, at the collection point, for requiring this data. If they can provide policy, statute or law that mandates such sharing of personal information, then at least you know where you must spend your time and effort to get things changed.

History will determine the spin on this part of the story of public education. Did the parent deny the child a well rounded education because of an unwillingness to provide vision information? OR  Did the school system fail to provide a decent education for lack of a child's height and weight on a form? That's what it comes down to.

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