Clarification of Student Pregnancy and Confidentiality
SED has been made aware that some school personnel have recently received written information from colleagues that may be misleading. The document that was circulated relates to a court case discussing the requirement of a school district to report a student pregnancy to the student’s parent(s) or guardian(s). This document gives the erroneous impression that SED has issued new policy guidelines on this subject.
This appears to be the result of a miscommunication. SED has not previously had regulation or policy on this issue and has not recently implemented policy or regulation on this issue. Additionally, the information disseminated in the document does not accurately reflect SED’s advice to school districts.
We reiterate the advice that we have previously provided on this matter. There is a 2005 federal court case that discussed, in dicta, a particular New York school district’s policy on student pregnancy, and the court noted its views on numerous confidentiality concerns raised by the plaintiffs (Port Washington Teachers Association v. Board of Education of the Port Washington Union Free School District, 361 F. Supp.2d 69 [E.D.N.Y. 2005]). The court stated its opinion that the Commissioner’s regulation [8 NYCRR §136.3(a)(5)] obligates the school to inform parents of the conditions of the health, safety and welfare of their child, including pregnancy. However, when the case was appealed, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed with that view, also in dicta (Port Washington Teachers Association v. Board of Education of the Port Washington Union Free School District, 478 F.3d 494 (2d Cir. 2006). Both decisions only discussed the issue, and there were no express court holdings or mandates issued by either court on the issue.The Department has not issued any new regulations or policy as a result of these decisions. The Department advises boards of education to consider whether they need to develop written policies related to the reporting of a student’s pregnancy. If a board deems a policy to be necessary, it should work in close consultation with the district’s counsel and medical director. Once in effect, a district should apply its policy based upon the specific facts of each situation and with guidance from its legal and medical experts.