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Port Washington Teacher’s Association et al. v. Board of Education of the Port Washington Union Free School District

This case concerns a school district policy that requires school officials to inform parents when a student tells a school-based health provider that she is pregnant. In November 2002, the Port Washington school superintendent issued a memo requiring any staff member who learns of a student’s pregnancy to inform the school social worker, who then must either convince the student to inform her parents of the pregnancy or, if the student refuses, to inform her parents directly, after consulting the principal and the superintendent.

In the spring of 2003, the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project demanded that the policy immediately be revoked because it unlawfully required health providers to breach a minor’s right to privacy. On April 1, 2004, New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) filed a complaint in the Eastern District of New York, alleging that the policy violated students’ constitutional rights to privacy and equal protection, female students’ rights under Title IX (the federal anti-discrimination in education statute), and state statutes establishing the confidentiality of communications with licensed health and mental health professionals. The complaint requested that the court reject the policy. RRP, along with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project (RFP), filed an amicus brief on behalf of six health and mental health professional organizations and in support of the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The brief argued that the parental notification policy violates the constitutional rights of minors to obtain pregnancy-related care and make decisions about continuing or terminating pregnancies without parental interference. On March 22, 2005, the District Court denied NYSUT’s motion for a preliminary injunction. The judge found the suit non-justiciable, asserting that the plaintiffs had “no reason to believe that their jobs were at risk if they violated the policy.” On January 4, 2006, the District Court granted the defendant’s August 30, 2005 motion to dismiss the case. NYSUT appealed this decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. On June 14, 2006, RRP and RFP sought leave to file an amicus brief before the federal Second Circuit in support of the Port Washington Teachers’ Association. The motion was filed on behalf of the same six health and mental health professional organizations as RRP’s 2004 brief. The 2006 amicus brief argues that: 1) the District Court’s ruling that the plaintiffs lacked standing should have ended its inquiry, and the remainder of the opinion should be vacated; and 2) the pregnancy reporting policy is unconstitutional and violates New York law. On Feb. 27, 2007, the Second Circuit agreed that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring suit and affirmed the District Court decision. It also made clear that the lower court’s opinion on the merits of plaintiffs state and federal claims was dicta, and that it therefore has no binding force of law. Attorneys involved in this case include Rebekah Diller, Anna Schissel, Galen Sherwin (NYCLU); Julie Sternberg and Corrine Schiff (ACLU).

E.D.N.Y., Index No. 04 Civ. 1357, U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Cir., Index No. 06-0708-cv (amicus)

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