Kamp, 072883 CAAGO, AGO 82-806

Docket Nº:AGO 82-806
Case Date:July 28, 1983
JOHN K. VAN DE KAMP Attorney General
CLAYTON P. ROCHE Deputy Attorney General
AGO 82-806
No. 82-806
California Attorney General Opinion
Office of the Attorney General State of California
July 28, 1983
         THE HONORABLE OLLIE SPERAW, MEMBER OF THE CALIFORNIA STATE SENATE, has requested an opinion on the following questions:          1. Do public school officials have the authority to excuse a pupil from regularly scheduled classes during the school day to obtain an abortion?          2. If public school officials have such authority, must they notify the pupil's parent or guardian of the pupil's leaving for such purpose?          CONCLUSIONS          1. Public school officials have the authority to excuse a pupil from regularly scheduled classes to obtain medical services, including an abortion.          2. Public school officials are under no legal duty to notify the parents or guardian of a public school pupil who is excused from school early to obtain medical services even if such medical services are the obtaining of an abortion.          ANALYSIS          The questions presented are (1) whether public school officials may excuse a pupil from regularly scheduled classes during the school day to obtain an abortion, and (2) if so, whether the officials are under a duty to notify the pupil's parents or guardian of the student's leaving for such purpose.          We conclude that public school officials may excuse a pupil from school early to obtain medical services, and that an abortion is such a medical service. We further conclude that such officials are under no duty to notify the student's parents or guardian of the student's leaving for such purpose.          In this analysis we will set forth the state of the law with respect to excusing pupils from school early for medical appointments prior to the enactment in 1979 of section 48205 of the Education Code.1 We will then determine if the addition of section 48205 affected the law. Section 48205 was added to the Compulsory Education Law (§ 48200 et seq.) and provides:
"Notwithstanding Section 48200, a pupil shall be excused from school for justifiable personal reasons, including but not limited to, an appearance in court, observance of a holiday or ceremony of his or her religion, or an employment conference, when the pupil's absence has been requested in writing by the parent or guardian and approved by the principal or a designated representative pursuant to uniform standards established by the governing board. . . ."[2]
         Section 48200 requires persons in California between the ages of 6 and 16 years not otherwise exempt (see § 48210 et seq.) to attend "public full-time day school or continuation school or classes for the full-time designated as the length of the school day by the governing board of the district."          Prior to 1980, the Education Code apparently contained no express authority to excuse students from classes for personal reasons, including keeping a medical appointment.3 Prior to 1980, however, the Legislature in the provisions of law relating to student attendance for computing apportionments of state funds to local school districts had clearly indicated in section 46010 that certain absences were to be excused. Thus section 46010 provided and provides that specified absences "from school or class shall not be deemed an absence in computing the attendance of a pupil for apportionment purposes, including an absence for "the purpose of having medical, dental, optometrical, or chiropractic services rendered." (Emphasis added.)[4] Furthermore, as to some of these absences (illness and quarantine) the administrative regulations of the Department of Education specifically provided and still provide for the manner for verifying such absences. The regulations are, however, silent with respect to verifying the rendition of medical and similar services specified in subdivision (b)(3) of section 46010.5 We are however, informed that as a general rule school district policy has been to permit pupils to leave for medical or dental appointments by merely presenting an appointment card. A request from the pupil's parents has not been required.6          1. The Status Of An Abortion As A "Medical Service"          An abortion is a lawful medical service. Any doubt in this regard in California is dispelled by the decision of the California Supreme Court in Ballard v. Anderson (1971) 4 Cal.3d 873, 879. That case was decided in the context of the California Therapeutic Abortion Act (Health & Saf. Code, § 25950 et seq.). It construed the provisions of section 34.5 of the Civil Code, as originally enacted in 1953,7 as to a minor who sought to have an abortion. The court stated in part:
". . . It is obvious that legal abortion is a surgical procedure, and the Therapeutic Abortion Act establishes that a legal abortion is 'care' of the prospective mother 'related to her pregnancy.' In California, law and medicine recognize that therapeutic abortion is a legitimate medical treatment which may be necessary for the preservation of a pregnant woman's life and health. Had the Legislature intended to exclude legal abortion from the class of surgical care to which the section refers, it would have limited its terminology to 'maternity care' or to 'prenatal, delivery, and postpartum care.'" (Id., at p. 879, emphasis added.)8
         Accordingly, there is no doubt but that a student who leaves school early for the purpose of obtaining an abortion would be leaving to obtain recognized medical services, or in the words of section 46010, subdivision (b)(3) "for the purpose of having medical services rendered."          2. The Effect If Any Of Section 48205          As noted, section 48205 was added to the Compulsory Education Law provisions (§ 48200 et seq.) of the Education Code in 1979. At the same time section 46015 was added to the article of the Education Code relating to attendance for computing school apportionments (§ 46010 et seq.) and...

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