D.C. Schools to Screen for STDs Without Parental Consent

Fri Sep 18, 2009 - 12:15 pm EST

By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., September 18, 2009 ( - Officials representing District of Columbia public schools have confirmed that they will begin offering sexually-transmitted disease (STD) screening and treatment for students without parental consent.

The new initiative, which follows the completion of a pilot program in some D.C. schools, will include explicit sex education that discusses with students the contraction of STDs.  City officials cite the District's high rate of HIV infections - the highest of all major U.S. cities - as an impetus for the new program.

Following the sex education, students will be sent to bathrooms where they receive a paper bag containing a cup for urine sample collection.  Students will be able to decide whether or not to give the sample. 

However, the plan is reportedly drawing concern among parents, who are not given a say in whether to include their child in the program.

Dianna Bruce, director of Health and Wellness for D.C. public schools, said in a National Public Radio interview last week that the initiative requires "a conversation" with parents.

"The way to have success with the program is to make sure that the parents are very much involved, that they understand why you're there, and that you give them all of the information," said Bruce.  "The number one message I try to convey is that this is an opportunity, if you aren't doing it already on a regular basis, to start talking to your kids about their sexual health."

According to a Washington Post report, school systems in cities including New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Baltimore, among others, also either perform screening for sexually transmitted diseases or are setting up pilot programs.  Only Baltimore's program does not require parental consent, although it is not clear whether parents can opt out their children.

D.C. Council member David A. Catania said that parents should be able to have the power to consent to or decline the screenings.

"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?" said Catania.  "Only if the parent gives the consent upfront would I do this."

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