A new law prohibiting restrictions to parental access of children’s records will take effect at the end of this month, on September 23. Even so, health care facilities are maintaining policies upholding their minor patients’ confidentiality. HB2161 will upend decades of common practice for Arizona health care providers.
The history of confidentiality in health care for minors leads back to the inception of the Title X family planning program in 1970 and the ensuing controversy over confidential reproductive health care services for minors. Beginning with the Clinton administration in 2000, the federal government issued privacy protections for medical records that extended to minors.
Since then, federal precedent has informed and shaped Arizona’s health care system. One of the most recent examples of this occurred in late June, when HonorHealth implemented a policy allowing its 12 to 17-year-old patients to shield their medical records from parental view. According to the Arizona Daily Independent, parents don’t have full access to their child’s online medical records.
Meanwhile, Banner Health precludes parental access to all of their 12- to 17-year old child’s records without the child’s consent. One Arizona mother, Jacquie Wedding, felt the effects of this policy recently. In a viral Tiktok video, Wedding shared the following email sent to her by Banner Health shortly after her children’s 12th birthday:
“Please be informed that access to your child’s account has been revoked. The reason for this is because the child is now between the ages of 12 and 17. Based on state law, a minor child may consent to certain treatments without parental consent. Records of those treatments are protected and may not be released to a parent without the minor patient’s consent. As Banner Health is not able to separate those records, we do not provide proxy access to MyBanner for minor patients between the ages of 12 and 17.”
Banner Health and HonorHealth are both part of the Health System Alliance of Arizona (HSAA), an advocacy organization that also includes Dignity Health and Tenet Healthcare Corporation.
These HSAA members align with Arizona Medical Association (AMA) standards on confidentiality for adolescent treatment. AMA advised health care providers to limit parental access to their child’s records.
“Providing confidential care to teenagers for certain personal issues is essential to providing appropriate health care and helping them develop autonomy by encouraging them to be responsible for their own health care,” stated the guide. “In addition, by providing confidential care, the clinician can develop a trusting relationship with the teen.”
One of the AMA guide authors was Veenod Chulani: the doctor who founded and currently leads the Phoenix Children’s Hospital (PCH) Gender Support Program, one of the only comprehensive gender transition programs for minors in the state.
PCH allows minors aged 12 to 17 to grant or prohibit parental access to their records.
Once upon a time, teachers were measured by their ability to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. And schools did everything they could to ensure that the teachers they hired were trained properly in these critical subjects.
But now, too many school districts have refocused their priorities, opting to indoctrinate our kids with diversity, equity, and inclusion. We’ve certainly seen it with the cleverly disguised Marxism inherent to Critical Race Theory. But this isn’t the only avenue the left is using to come after students.
Pushing gender and sexual identity have also become popular. One Arizona school district has even gone so far as to encourage children to replace their “deadname”—the birth name that individuals reject upon transitioning genders—with their preferred name on their school ID. And now, a school in that same district, Scottsdale Unified School District (SUSD), has required middle school teachers to attend grooming training…
On Monday, the Arizona Senate passed HB2161, a bill prohibiting state employees, political subdivisions, governmental entities, or any other institution from withholding a minor’s records from parents. Parents may sue any entity or institution that withholds their child’s records in violation of the legislation. It’s likely that HB2161 will most heavily impact school districts.
The bill passed along party lines. State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), the bill sponsor, explained that the legislation would ensure recourse for parents whose rights had been violated.
The bill was transmitted to the State House for review of the amendments made in the Senate. If approved, the version passed on Monday will head to Governor Doug Ducey for his signature.
Democrats’ opposition to the bill focused on the impact on educators. One of the main arguments concerned the fact that educators wouldn’t be able to withhold the sexuality or gender identity of LGBTQ+ minors from their parents.
Those arguments echo incidents making headlines nationally, in which parents discover that educators or school counselors coached their children into adopting a deviant sexuality or gender identity. Just this past week, it was discovered that a Massachusetts public middle school promoted the gender transitions of a pair of siblings without their parents’ knowledge.
A transgender woman testifed to the Arizona House Education Committee that he opposed a bill to expand parental rights, HB2161. The Arizona Daily Independent identified the individual as Liberty Elementary School District Governing Board Member Paul Bixler. The bill that Bixler opposed would prohibit government employees from withholding information from parents concerning their children, or interfering in any capacity unless there’s a compelling interest. The bill also included provisions specific to schools, such as prohibiting school districts or their employees from withholding information from parents related to purported gender identity or requested gender transitions. It also required schools to obtain written informed consent from parents prior to administering any survey soliciting personal information, as well as share a copy of the survey in question seven days prior to administering it. Violations of the bill could result in disciplinary action to the offending employee, a $500 fine for school districts, and lawsuits against the governmental entity or official from the parents.
During Monday’s House Education Committee hearing, Bixler asserted that the legislation would cause harm to befall teens: drug use, depression, dropping out of school, homelessness, depression, and even suicide. Bixler contended that the protections for parents already exist in legislation and no additional ones are necessary.
Bixler also recalled his personal experience with attempting to transition his gender, referencing the difficulty of it. He insinuated that the legislators were handling the topic of transgenderism lightly by approving the bill. Bixler asserted that the bill would put health care practitioners at “personal physical risk” while eliminating much-needed help for children.
“When you threaten a child’s disclosure with exposure, those children will continue to question but will not seek the highly qualified individuals that could assist them. Threatening dedicated, trained caregivers with litigation also threatens the welfare of the children within that same population,” stated Bixler. “By pursuing this legislation, you risk the life that already is fragile of these children. If you pursue this, expect a rise of teen and pretend drug use, drop-out[s], depression, homelessness, and suicide. How do we know this? We know this because we see it over and over and over again. When you marginalize this student population and force them to go into hiding, they won’t stop questioning. They simply will not receive the help that they need. But I believe there’s a bigger question here. This is not only personal proposed legislation targeted on a specific membership within Arizona’s community. It does not appear coincidental that so much proposed legislation is focused on transgender members of Arizona. I have one question for you: what are you afraid of?”
Bixler was elected to his school district in 2020, and will serve until 2024. According to his governing board member profile, Bixler would describe his educational philosophy as “free appropriate education.”
“Sound familiar? I hope so. The words free and appropriate are a promise. A promise rooted in the Fourteenth Amendment and guaranteed in the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. All this promise asks is to attend. I believe that this is every child’s constitutional, more importantly, human right. I believe in public education,” stated Bixler. “I am a fiscal realist. This belief is honed from more than 30 years of public school experience. As a 20-year public school administrator, I have served as both member and leader of teams that made tough implementation decisions. I would now like to work cooperatively to make tough policy decisions.”
On another profile, this time with Arizona List, a pro-choice Democratic women’s commitee, Bixler revealed that he spent four years in the Navy and Marine Corps after two years at Northern Arizona University (NAU) in the late 1960s. After that, Bixler received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Arizona State University (ASU), then spent over 30 years in public schools as a teacher, guidance counselor, coach, and administrator. Bixler revealed that he’s married to a woman.
According to Arizona List, Bixler qualified as the first transgender woman to be elected in Arizona. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona (PPAA) endorsed Bixler in his campaign.
In response to the House Education Committee hearing on a bill to enhance parental rights, State Representative Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) implied that the fault lied with parents, not with the schools. He said that the legislature should maintain a limited government approach and not create more burdens for schools.
“We [should] encourage parents to be more involved in their children’s education,” said Hernandez. “The vast majority of parents aren’t as engaged as they should be.”
The bill in question, HB2161, was introduced by State Representative Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix). It would prohibit any employee of the state or its political subdivisions, entities, or institutions from: withholding information from parents related to their child’s physical, emotional, or mental health; interfering in parents’ control over their child’s upbringing, education, health care, and mental health; denying or inhibiting parents’ rights to access any of their child’s written or electronic medical records, attendance scores, test scores, grades, extracurricular activities, club participation, disciplinary or psychological records, admission applications, health and immunization information, teacher and counselor evaluations and behavioral pattern reports, email accounts, and online or virtual accounts and data. Government entities or officials may only invoke control over a child’s upbringing, education, health care, and mental health if there’s a compelling government interest demonstrated.
The bill also included provisions specific to schools, such as prohibiting school districts or their employees from withholding information from parents related to purported gender identity or requested gender transitions. It also required schools to obtain written informed consent from parents prior to administering any survey soliciting personal information, as well as share a copy of the survey in question seven days prior to administering it.
Violations of the bill could result in disciplinary action to the offending employee, a $500 fine for school districts, and lawsuits against the governmental entity or official from the parents.
The bill passed the House Education Committee by a bare majority, 6-5.
State Representatives Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), Lupe Diaz (R-Hereford), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), Michelle Udall (R-Mesa), and Beverly Pingerelli (R-Peoria) voted for the bill. Those who voted against the bill were State Representatives Daniel Hernandez Jr. (D-Tucson), Joel John (R-Arlington), Judy Schweibert (D-Phoenix), Myron Tsosie (D-Chinle), and Jennifer Pawlik (D-Chandler).
During conversations of the bill, several school-related issues reported by AZ Free News were brought up: the encouragement of students to identify their given names as deadnames and instead identify by their preferred names on identification, the formation of K-12 LGBTQ clubs through an organization called GLSEN whose content focuses on the sexualization of children, the pornographic and explicit book assigned even after promised revocation at Horizon High School, and surveys that encourage students to disclose private information about their home life.
Kaiser said he would “absolutely” consider increasing the penalty to schools from $500, which Fillmore said might be too low because that amount was paltry for school districts.
Schwiebert expressed concern that forced exposure of private, more emotional conversations between a teacher and student would result in hardships for the student. Kaiser asserted that it wasn’t the teacher’s role to serve as a support system. He said he hoped he’d get a call from a teacher if his child was struggling with something, and would be horrified if they didn’t because it’s not their job.
“Their job is to teach my son reading, writing and math, their job is not to console my son. Their job is to let me know,” said Kaiser.
John then asked if there was any time where a student could tell a teacher something in confidence that wouldn’t be shared with parents, exempting information involving something illegal. Kaiser said no.
In response, Udall shared that she had several teenage students in the past approach her about their underage pregnancies. Kaiser said that he didn’t have an answer for that specific situation; Udall advised that Kaiser should consider situations which would allow teachers to leave it to the children to tell their parents.
Fillmore chimed in to ask Udall if there wasn’t a duty to report teenage pregnancies; Udall didn’t have an exact answer, saying that she believed that only incidents related to abuse were those teachers were required to report.
Community members who spoke in opposition of the bill said that it violated the rights of youth, mainly an alleged right to privacy. One example came from ACLU of Arizona spokesman Jeff Esposito who said that the bill was unnecessary at best and dangerous at worst. Nguyen retorted that Esposito and his ilk were driving a wedge between parents and their children by allowing educators to decide what information parents may know.
“You’re, in a way, making a decision for me [as a parent],” said Nguyen.
Fillmore then asked Esposito if his only contention with the bill was the outing of a child’s sexuality. Esposito said no, but then repeated that sexuality and its impact on mental health were of paramount concern.
“What I’m saying is a student may make a choice to reveal private information to a trusted adult and then that trusted adult may make that choice to reveal that information to parents,” said Esposito. “But to jump that line and make that information known to parents before the student is ready […] sometimes those students need a trusted adult to go to and their rights to privacy should be respected.”
Fillmore challenged the notion that children had authority to do what they’d like that suits them best without parental knowledge or oversight.
In closing remarks, Blackman said that schools have no right to subvert parents’ wills or act as a parent would in certain situations. He criticized the implication that preventing government employees from serving as middlemen between parents and children would result in children facing hardships such as homelessness and drug addiction.
“When she’s going to bed at night, she’s going to my house. Not at the counselors’ house and not at the teachers house,” asserted Blackman. “Schools are trying to get in the middle where the parents should be to comfort that child, to teach that child. And all I hear is, ‘the parent has no rights.’ If the parent has no rights for those medical records, is the school going to pay that medical bill? You’re not going to do that. As a parent I have a right to know every single thing that’s going on with my child.”
Diaz added that parents are divinely ordained by God to care for their children — not schools. Diaz said he discerned from parent testimonies that a variety of God-given rights were violated by schools, including the First and Fourth Amendments.
“God created the parents to be the responsible entity for the children,” said Diaz. “Our man’s laws should be a reflection of divine law. Every parent is going to stand before God and answer for their children. And I respect you parents who have come here and have stood for your own parental rights and for your children.”