Credit: Kate Valdez / Boyle Heights Beat
Los Angeles, Mendez High School in Boyle Heights last month unveiled a new, 6,500-square-foot health clinic on campus.

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A bill that would double the number of health clinics on school  campuses is headed to Gov.Gavin Newsom for approval amid objections from anti-abortion groups that claim the clinics would make it easier for students to end pregnancies.

Assembly Bill 1940, would set aside $100 million for schools to build or expand an estimated 200 health clinics offering free medical care, dental services, mental health counseling, reproductive health care and other services for students and, in some cases, the surrounding community.

“There’s so much urgency, so much passion and need for this right now,” said Gabrielle Tilley, senior policy manager at the Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, one of the organizations supporting the bill. “We have the money, and we have a new awareness of the massive inequities in our state — this seems like a perfect time to make this happen.”

The current state budget does not include money for AB 1940, so the state would have to fund the bill in next year’s budget. Advocates are hopeful because it could bolster Newsom’s other priorities, including community schools, the Children and Youth Behavioral Health Initiative and efforts to streamline Medi-Cal benefits — all of which are well funded in this year’s budget.

Advocates have been pushing for school-based health centers for decades. A similar law passed in 2006 but was never funded, leaving districts to find alternative ways to pay for the infrastructure and services needed to create full-service health centers on K-12 campuses. Of the estimated 200 clinics that already exist, some are operated by school districts, and some are run by outside agencies, such as Planned Parenthood or St. John’s Community Health in Los Angeles.

Research shows that on-campus health clinics can have wide-reaching benefits for students as well as their families. School attendance for students who visited their campus health clinic rose 5 to 7 days per year, even when their attendance was declining prior to their first visit, according to a study of 23 school-based health centers in Los Angeles Unified. Good attendance is linked to higher graduation rates and better academic performance.

Students who visited school clinics also had lower discipline rates and were less likely to drop out of school, according to the California School-Based Health Alliance. The clinics also lowered health-care costs generally, with fewer patients going to the emergency room or developing serious, preventable conditions.

According to the report, which was complied by the Los Angeles Trust for Children’s Health, the most common reasons students visited their campus health clinics were for vaccines, help to manage their weight, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, contraception, mental health counseling, help with substance abuse and treatment for chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes.  

Advocates say there is widespread support for the idea of basic medical care for children, available free at school. But some groups oppose clinics that provide reproductive health services for students under age 18, especially considering that California law allows minors to obtain treatment for sexual and reproductive health, substance abuse and mental health services without permission from — or notification of — their parents.

Their fear is that clinics will dispense pills that end a pregnancy, or refer pregnant girls to outside clinics that provide surgical abortions, without parents’ knowledge or permission and paid for with public dollars.

“Public schools should not be places where children can get an abortion,” said Susan Swift, vice president of legal affairs for the Right to Life League, which seeks to ban abortions. “This is yet another attempt to separate parents and children, and they’re using the state Department of Education to do it. … This is a huge deal.”

As an alternative, Swift’s group would like to see schools notify parents immediately if a student is pregnant, refer students to prenatal care and offer information about adoption and parenting.

In light of the Supreme Court’s recent overturn of Roe vs. Wade, Swift is hopeful that legislators will reconsider efforts to provide reproductive health services on campus, even in left-leaning California.

Services at school health clinics vary depending on the school, district and outside agency providing care, but in general, school-based health clinics do not provide abortions on campus, said Lisa Eisenberg, director of policy and external affairs for the California School-Based Health Alliance. If a pregnant student comes to a school-based health center, staff are likely to offer counseling and support and refer them to other resources, though each clinic is free to operate as it sees fit.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, Mendez High School in Boyle Heights last month unveiled a new, 6,500-square-foot health clinic on campus. The largest such health center in LAUSD, the clinic has 12 rooms for medical, dental, optical and mental health visits. The center has two entrances — one for students and one for the public — and is expected to be a hub in the predominantly low-income Latino community. 

It’s also expected to aid students’ education and career planning by offering internships for students who hope to enter the medical field.

“The opening of the Sylvia Mendez Wellness Center will mark a historic milestone for the Boyle Heights community,” said Maria Brenes, executive director for InnerCity Struggle, a local community group, according to a release from the district. “After many years of organizing and advocacy by students, families, school leadership and community residents, the Wellness Center will be a reality that will serve as a much-needed health resource for our community.”

The district also opened a new wellness center that will serve two high schools in the San Fernando Valley. The $11.31 million Balboa Student and Family Wellness Center will provide medical and mental health services to students as well as their families and members of the community.

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  1. Brenda Lebsack - Teacher 3 months ago3 months ago

    My school district (like many) partners with Planned Parenthood. Besides abortions, many people don't know Planned Parenthood also offers "gender affirming care" such as hormone therapy. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-mar-monte/patient-resources/gender-affirming-care When Planned Parenthood surveys students about their gender via text lines (unbeknownst to parents), the choices provided are: boy/man, cisgender, genderfluid, girl/woman, intersex, non-binary, questioning, transgender, something else, I want to name my own. Even though the CDE and districts say parent engagement … Read More

    My school district (like many) partners with Planned Parenthood. Besides abortions, many people don’t know Planned Parenthood also offers “gender affirming care” such as hormone therapy. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-mar-monte/patient-resources/gender-affirming-care

    When Planned Parenthood surveys students about their gender via text lines (unbeknownst to parents), the choices provided are: boy/man, cisgender, genderfluid, girl/woman, intersex, non-binary, questioning, transgender, something else, I want to name my own. Even though the CDE and districts say parent engagement is a priority, parents are being left in the dark (especially immigrant parents). Ironically, students are informed, but not parents. For example, in the new Sex Ed Curriculum students are told: Calif Family Code Section 6925 – Minors of any age can leave school with an excused absence to receive contraceptives or an abortion without parental consent
    file:///C:/Users/Mark/Desktop/Brenda%20Old%20Computer%20Documents/Calif%20Family%20Code%20Section%206925.pdf
    I don’t think parents should count on the teachers’ union to advocate for them. CTA just donated $250K for Prop 1 (abortion rights) and Calif Federation of Teachers just donated $300K. In Jan 2020, the CTA passed a policy that referred to parent permission as a “barrier.” https://www.cta.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/SC-Report-June-2019-For-Web-1.pdf (Bottom p. R1, Top p. R2)
    No wonder California wants to rename parents “birthing people”… the real parents are the state.

  2. Yvonne 3 months ago3 months ago

    The schools have no right to play the role of the parents and all minors under 18 years of age; all parent should be notified. It was that way for years and worked very well until all of it is changing and young adults are quite a mess. As far as what one other person commented that "we are policing our children" and they have no rights. What happened to America?? Parents are responsible for … Read More

    The schools have no right to play the role of the parents and all minors under 18 years of age; all parent should be notified. It was that way for years and worked very well until all of it is changing and young adults are quite a mess.

    As far as what one other person commented that “we are policing our children” and they have no rights. What happened to America?? Parents are responsible for their children and in every state a minor is one who is under 18 years of age. That is because it has always been that if one is under 18 years of age they cannot make a lot of decisions for themselves. Why does the court of law not convict a minor in adult court but rather juvenile court? That’s because they are not an adult. Schools should never play the role of a parent.

    If the clinics truly want to help the families then the “families” need to be involved. It should not be a place where one goes to get birth control without a parent’s knowledge and it certainly should never be a place for one to get an abortion. If minors want no one telling them what to do and they feel they can do what they want then “they” need to be held accountable for their own actions.

    Why do you think kids are such a mess? They are being taught things at home and then too many teachers take it upon themselves to tell the children (minors) that their parents are wrong in what they are teaching. Look at all the horror stories of things that have happened where teachers try to play the parents. They are not the parents – they are to be teachers and teaching school curriculum and nothing else.

    America needs to wake up and go back to the core values of what made America so great. Just ask pretty much any teacher if they found out their child had an abortion and was not told – if they truly are a loving parent they would be absolutely mortified!

    Prayers for this country, prayers for all the schools nationwide, prayers for all the children (minors), prayers for all the parents, prayers for all the families.

    Replies

    • eileen 3 months ago3 months ago

      Here, here, Yvonne! You are spot-on. Not everyone has bought into this utter mess. There will come a day when these kids will become and adults and say, “What have you done to us?” It grieves the heart.

  3. SD Parent 3 months ago3 months ago

    Student internships at the Wellness Center in Boule Heights? Really? I think that, other than their parents, the last person a student in Boyle Heights would want to see when going into the Wellness Center for many services (e.g. contraception, pregnancy. STDs, obesity) would be another student from school.

  4. K 3 months ago3 months ago

    Now we are policing children? Parents have to be notified, we have to have parents permission? You don’t trust your child? It’s their body, their choice. We give birth to them and can advise them but we don’t control them and they are not our property. I really think this next generation is going to be severely messed up, suicidal and traumatized by this left and right mess. Both sides wanting to control. One side … Read More

    Now we are policing children? Parents have to be notified, we have to have parents permission? You don’t trust your child? It’s their body, their choice. We give birth to them and can advise them but we don’t control them and they are not our property.

    I really think this next generation is going to be severely messed up, suicidal and traumatized by this left and right mess. Both sides wanting to control. One side wanting you to switch your gender or not have one then the other thinking it’s okay for 10 year olds to give birth but yet pedophiles and rapists get less time than someone who sells drugs.

    Seriously what is wrong with people? And all this fear mongering? One side is saying they are all racists and homophobic then the other is saying they are trying to steal your children. These liberal and conservative children will wind up killing themselves to get way from all these nut jobs.