Victorian Doctors in Secondary Schools Program (DiSS) fails to provide for appropriate parental engagement
The new Doctors in Secondary Schools (DiSS) program being trialled in Victorian State schools fails to support appropriate parental engagement between medical professionals and underage children on important matters of mental and physical health.
The DiSS program operational guidelines have been released for public consultation with the expectation that the program will be implemented in a staged rollout, which has already commenced in 20 schools. It will commence in a further 80 Victorian State Secondary schools by the end of term 1, 2018.
DiSS is an Australian Labour Party program, led by Premier Daniel Andrews that aims to ensure young people are getting the health support, advice and treatment they need so they can reach their full potential. The $43.8 million initiative is delivering on the Victorian Government’s election commitment to fund general practitioners to provide medical advice and healthcare to those students most in need.
The program has some valuable qualities such as making health care more accessible for low-income students, creating links with schools and local primary health services, and increasing young people’s awareness of positive health behaviours. Where the concerns lie however are in relation to how the program intends to address issues of confidentiality and disclosure between underage minors and their parents.
Just like the ‘Safe Schools’ program, the DiSS program removes parental rights and encourages students and minors to make decisions about their health and wellbeing without the consent or engagement of their parents.
According to the programs operational guidelines, “a fundamental element to the success of this program is the ability for students to access confidential health care.” The guidelines explain how schools should encourage students at 15 years and older to get their own Medicare card so that their parents are not informed of their Medicare claims. In the case of a young person aged 14 who must use their parent’s Medicare card, it is stated that the program will not release information about their Medicare claims to a parent or guardian without the young person’s consent.
Further, students who are mature minors can consent to their own medical treatment. The guidelines state that it is up to the General Practitioner to assess whether a young person is to be considered mature minor with respect to the issue for which they are seeking medical treatment. In this case, 12 or 13-year-old children may be considered mature minors and have treatment without the engagement or knowledge of their parents.
Given this program is being run in secondary schools a big emphasis in the program is placed on sexual health and reproductive services. It would be expected therefore that students might be seeking treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), to get a prescription for contraceptives, or advice or medication to terminate a pregnancy with chemical abortifacient the Morning-After Pill (MAP). It is not clear in the operational guidelines as to specifically what advice would be given by the healthcare services, for example, would a mature minor be simply advised to have an abortion? In this circumstance, there would be many issues that would need to be discussed and it is unclear that the health services could provide for all these needs. Is the child in an abusive or immature relationship? Might the child want to keep the baby? Would the short term and long term impact of the abortion be explained adequately? Similarly, if it was a mental health issue that the child was seeking services for, would it not be also essential that the parents were aware of any interventions to ensure the child is monitored, supervised and provided with the relevant follow-up care, especially if something goes wrong?
Due to the nature of these types of interventions, it is important that parents as the primary custodians of the child are given the opportunity to also be involved in these discussions.
The relevant School Council and the broader parent community of each of the schools where this program is being implemented should be kept informed of the how the program is being run. The current operational guidelines do not specify how this is going to be done. It is important for example, that schools have a say in whether they want the program to be implemented in the first place. The relevant school community should also be given details on the rates of student use of the services, types of interventions provided and information on the types of services that students are referred onto. This information could be provided appropriately without disclosing patient confidentiality.
Link to Safe Schools
What is also concerning with the DiSS program is the clear links to the controversial ‘Safe Schools’ Coalition program. The ‘SSCP’ has two core doctrines: that gender is fluid (meaning any adult or child can choose a gender other than their biological sex); and that the child is a sexual agent capable of making his or her own sexual decisions without parental involvement. The DiSS program, states that the Respectful Relationships program is a core component. Like Safe Schools, Respectful Relationships under the guise of preventing family violence promotes highly sexualised content to school children and pushes gender theory that biological sex is insignificant.
We all want children to receive appropriate health care, information and have responsible adults that they can talk to. Sometimes children do need to talk with an independent professional who is not their parent about particular issues. There is, however, a time when these issues are too important and life changing for children to deal with themselves which calls for parental engagement to provide support and care for the child’s happy growth and development.
This petition is calling on the State government to ensure that medical professionals involved in the DiSS program are not given full rights to provide medical interventions to mature minors without the engagement of parents. Further, we ask that the policy in the guidelines that specifically directs students from the age of 14 to explicitly create a ‘veil of silence’ between children and their parents by getting their own Medicare care be removed. Further, we also seek the removal of the Respectful Relationships component in the program as a resource. It has already been acknowledged that this is a social engineering program rather than a program to reduce family violence or bullying.
Please sign this petition now and share with your friends and colleagues in Victoria. The petition will be sent to the Minister for Education, Hon James Merlino MP. Copies will also be sent to the Premier Hon Daniel Andrews and the opposition leader Hon Matthew Guy. Collectively we can make an impact on helping to bring positive changes to these areas of concern with the operational guidelines of the DiSS program.
Sign this petition now!
Please review the DiSS program before further implementation