Adolescent Confidentiality Laws

By Jonita Davis
Doctors are not allowed to disclose the results of certain medical procedures performed on teens.

It seems as if teens are always seeking privacy from their parents. In some cases, that privacy is legally protected. Federal and state governments have identified and set up laws to designate when a teen's privacy is legally relevant. While parents may think they have the right to know everything about their teen's life, the law sets boundaries in certain situations. Both teens and parents need to know and understand these adolescent confidentiality laws.

Reproductive Rights

One of the most hotly debated teen privacy laws surrounding teens is the right to confidentiality in the area of reproductive rights. The Public Health Service Act gives teens the right to seek treatment and medical care for reproductive issues, whether it be for contraceptives, the treatment of STDs and pregnancy. Title X of this act was initially used to ensure that parents had some knowledge regarding the reproductive care of their children. Over time, it has been amended to grant more privacy to the teen.

Education Privacy

Another protected area regarding teens is the right to confidentiality in the area of education. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 established the right to keep a child's school records from being disclosed to anyone other than the teen and his parents. The law was amended again in 1994 to strengthen that privacy. Today, no school can release any information about a student without both the student's and the parent's permission. The law further states that all rights to confidentiality transfer to the student when he reaches the age of 18.

Drug Treatment Info

The federal government wanted teens to have access to drug treatment facilities. The Public Health Services Act of 1970 has provisions in it that cover drug and alcohol treatment. Under this law, adolescents can enter rehab, seek counseling and medical attention for drug and alcohol-related conditions without fear of their medical information leaking out beyond the clinic or hospital walls. The teens can consent to treatment without their parent's permission. The details of the treatment cannot be disclosed to the parents unless the teen consents.

State Laws Vary

The federal laws do offer a general confidentiality for teens, but state laws cover the details. For example, some states specifically offer confidentiality for teens who seek or who have undergone abortions, while other states require parental consent. The details vary from one state to another, so teens and parents should learn and understand the adolescent confidentiality laws in their state.

About the Author

Jonita Davis is freelance writer and marketing consultant. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications, including "The LaPorte County Herald Argus" and Work.com. Davis also authored the book, "Michigan City Marinas," which covers the history of the Michigan City Port Authority. Davis holds a bachelor's degree in English from Purdue University.