A trend of installing “health centers” in K-12 public schools has led to students being offered disturbing services without parental knowledge or consent, an investigation by a leading parental rights group has found.

Progressive education activists claim that so-called school-based health centers and other “wrap-around services” improve academic performance and behavior by giving students daily access to mental and health services on campus. 

This sounds good in theory—especially with a proposed staff of nurses, doctors, and psychologists ready to aid students in need—a lack of guardrails and associations with politically motivated organizations severely compromise the sales pitch for school-based health centers, or SBHCs.

Parents Defending Education, the parental rights group, looked closely at these school-based health centers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and affiliated groups claim that SBHCs, often established in “low-income communities,” improve academics and behavior. 

But studies done in 2020 and 2023 found that giving students an on-campus clinic and psychologist had “no statistically significant” effect on students’ academic performance. The 2023 study from Pediatric Research,    the official publication of the American Pediatric Society and two related groups, found that students using SBHCs were more likely to be diagnosed with mental disorders such as gender dysphoria.

This hasn’t stopped political organizations such as Planned Parenthood, the American Federation of Teachers, Reproduction for All (formerly NARAL Pro-Choice America), and the School-Based Health Alliance (an LGBTQ advocacy group) from pushing SBHCs as a health necessity while focusing on questionable services for minors.

The investigation by Parents Defending Education found that Illinois’ Evanston Township High School Health Center offered acupuncture, gynecologic care, “mental health services,” “reproductive services,” and testing for sexually transmitted diseases to students.

Most shockingly, parents weren’t notified about the types of services their children requested. After getting a simple permission slip from parents, students were given “full access to use the health center’s services,” Parents Defending Education’s investigation found.

According to the student newspaper at Evanston Township High School, students were able to get “prescriptions for short-term hormonal birth control like the birth control pill” without any parental consent form.

Schools in California, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington have documented policies and guidelines for SBHCs that suggest similar services to students. 

Most notably, Parents Defending Education exposed a Missouri school in 2023 for reaching out to the Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children’s Hospital over questions about using chest binders for “transitioning students,” including several children in fifth grade.

Programs and policies encouraging gender transitions for minors aren’t limited to these school-based health centers. At least 1,044 school districts in the United States have policies requiring teachers, administrators, and other staff to keep a student’s “transition” from his or her parents.

School counselors and teachers who have exposed or criticized these policies publicly have been fired, both in California and Indiana. An Indiana law passed last year (HB 1608) requires schools to notify at least one parent in writing when a student requests that the school affirm his or her “transition.”

For states without such laws, or school districts in which parents suspect the law isn’t being followed, Parents Defending Education’s investigation suggests that parents remain circumspect, ask questions, and ensure their consent is required. 

Parents Defending Education’s report includes a state-by-state list of schools known to have operational SBHCs.

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