A new Senate bill would set out requirements for school-based health clinics to explicitly involve parents. (Photo by Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images)
Few schools in Indiana have health clinics to serve the needs of their students on campus, but Sen. Andy Zay said the corporations don’t have any operating guidelines or requirements for parental involvement – something his proposed legislation would remedy.
Just 48 of the state’s estimated 1,770 schools have school-based health clinics but, without regulations, no two clinics are alike. Zay, R-Huntington, introduced a bill Wednesday before the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee that wouldn’t require schools to operate such a clinic but would set out requirements for schools that have them.
“Schools are a great touchpoint… to see things that maybe even as parents we don’t see,” Zay said. “But parents need to be a part of the process.”
Under the bill, school-based health clinics would be required to inform parents “every step of the way,” above and beyond the regular duties of a school nurse. It also mandates that health clinics operate as a separate legal entity, which Zay said would keep health records separate from school transcripts.
Zay tied the bill with recommendations from the Governor’s Public Health Commission, which specifically called for the expansion of school-based health centers.
Senators didn’t take a vote Wednesday. Testimony included some confusion about why an insurance committee, rather than a health or education committee, heard the bill. While not specifically addressed, the bill does provide a pathway for schools to charge Medicaid for certain services at the health clinics.
The Indiana Optometric Association said they were neutral on the overall bill, but noted that parents needed to “opt-in” for school-based vision tests, which it said wasn’t good policy and would hurt students.
Also neutral, the Indiana School Board Association said the legislation was confusingly worded, noting the use of “shall” instead of “may” at various points in the bill obfuscated the requirements for schools.
“The way it reads to us is (as) a mandate; we want to provide vital services to students and make sure the school nurse can continue to provide those necessary services,” Terry Spradlin, the group’s executive director, said.
In particular, he noted that the bill didn’t specify whether a school nurse at one of the health clinics could still administer prescribed medication in an emergency, such as inhalers or epipens, without parental consent.
Another group, Stand for Medical Freedom, praised the bill for its involvement of parents but called for further action to ensure parents could physically be at the clinic and make fully informed decisions.
“Access is okay but access with guardrails so that the integrity of our community and parents is preserved,” Leah Wilson, the group’s founder, said.
“Anything above and beyond the scope of school nurse care would require a parent to be present,” said Leah Wilson, the group’s founder.
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