Capistrano Unified Rejects Policy Notifying Parents of Child’s Mental Health Crisis

Capistrano Unified Rejects Policy Notifying Parents of Child’s Mental Health Crisis

The offices of the Capistrano Unified School District in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., on Sept. 20, 2022. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

10/21/2023

Updated: 12/30/2023

The Capistrano Unified School District rejected a parent notification policy for students’ mental health crises on Oct. 18, making it the first school district to shoot down such a proposal after a wave of local school boards adopted similar policies over the summer.
The board voted 4–2 to reject the policy during a board meeting, with Trustees Krista Castellanos, Michael Parham, Amy Hanacek, and Gila Jones voting against it and Trustees Judy Bullockus and Lisa Davis voting in favor.
The school board’s vote comes after eight other California school districts approved similar policies this year—including Chino Valley Unified, which was the first to enact a policy for parental notification for a students’ change in gender identity in July and is currently being sued by state Attorney General Rob Bonta over the policy. Mr. Bonta previously said the policy puts LGBT students in danger if their family is unsupportive.
The policy considered by the Capistrano Unified board was similar to one adopted by Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified, but different from the policies adopted by the other districts.
Capistrano’s and Placentia Yorba-Linda’s were written with a focus on mental health concerns and have no mention of gender identity.
The now-rejected policy would have required a school counselor to notify parents or guardians “when they have reasonable cause to believe that doing so will avert a clear and present danger to the health, safety or welfare” of students.
Other districts’ policies, however, require notification if a child wants to identify as transgender, is involved in violence at school, or shares thoughts of suicide.
Ms. Davis, who proposed the policy at a board meeting in September, said during last month’s meeting that she did so because the “policy brings parents into the conversation regarding some of the most important aspects of a child’s life.”
At the Oct. 18 meeting, Ms. Bullockus said the policy was intended to help equip parents to work with their children if they are experiencing mental health concerns.
“Empathy is what parents need most in their relationships with their children,” she said. “I don’t believe you should kick parents out of the door. I think parents could use some coaching, so let’s work and teach with parents.”
But Mr. Parham said he hadn’t heard any reports from teachers of children keeping information from their parents, which, he said, led him to believe there was no need for the policy.
“We are all doing what we think is best for our own children,” Mr. Parham said during the meeting. “Because we are so engaged, we are rarely caught off-guard when it comes to our own children. I haven’t heard any anecdotes tonight where teachers are not deliberately telling you something about your child here in the district. So that to me suggests our system in place is working.”
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Micaela Ricaforte

Micaela Ricaforte

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Micaela Ricaforte covers education in Southern California for The Epoch Times. In addition to writing, she is passionate about music, books, and coffee.

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