CA bill would permit interrogation of children!greenspun.com : LUSENET : TB2K spinoff uncensored : One Thread
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'Intrusive' California Bill Permits Interrogation of Children
By Lawrence Morahan CNS Senior Staff Writer 15 June, 2000
(CNSNews.com) - Protests by parents and civil rights groups are forcing changes in legislation passed by the California Assembly that seeks to permit the interrogation of children by pediatricians on such politically-charged subjects as whether their parents own handguns and what sort of television programs they watch.
The bill, authored by Representative Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and passed by one vote last month, will be made "less intrusive" before it goes to the state Senate committee on Health and Human Services.
The bill adopted recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics in a policy statement that advises pediatricians to screen children for risk factors indicating violence.
Under the bill, the AAP guidelines would be used by the Child Health and Disability Prevention program, which is administered by county governments for poor families under the supervision of the state Department of Health Services.
Passage of the bill caused an uproar after civil rights groups noted it would allow pediatricians to ask children as young as five whether their family had a history of mental illness, domestic violence, drug use, and whether the parents were unemployed or divorced.
The bill also sought to permit doctors to ask the child if his or her parents owned a handgun or whether the child had been exposed to violence, either directly in the family or indirectly through movies or TV.
"The impact of this bill on our privacy is frightening," a local resident wrote to the Sacramento Bee newspaper after learning about the possible impact of the bill.
"Interrogating children about their parents was a ploy much favored in Nazi Germany. It's obscene to consider such tactics in a free, democratic society - even in the name of 'doing good,'" wrote another.
"This type of invasion of the family will interfere with trust between parents and health care providers," said yet another. "It would be confusing for the children who may not understand that what they say could cause their separation from their parents."
Steinberg claimed that people were reading into the bill what was not there and announced he would amend the legislation. An "entirely different" version of the legislation would be published in about 10 days, his office said.
"Children were never going to be the subject of questioning, and we are going to clarify that in the bill," a spokeswoman for Steinberg said Wednesday. "Our intent was to give parents additional tools to try and help their children if they have issues of concern."
Steinberg made a commitment when the bill came off the Assembly floor that he would amend it to make sure it wasn't intrusive or overly broad, and to clarify "the misconception that doctors would be talking to children about things, which was never the case," the spokeswoman said. Doctors would only be talking confidentially to parents, she said.
But even in amended form, the legislation opens the door to violations of privacy protected by the Constitution, legal watchdog groups report.
"All [Steinberg] is doing is taking the particular and making it more general," said Brad Dacus, president of the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute, a non-profit organization that defends religious and family rights. Dacus' watchdog group is monitoring the bill's progress. "You're still opening the door for questioning of the children," he said.
Dacus sees the bill as another attempt by legislators to broaden the government's authority over the family. The current system rewards local governments with federal dollars for every child it registers in its Child Protective Services system, he said. An example of this abuse is the fact that one Sacramento county registered a 400-percent increase in the number of children in its books over the past 10 years, he said.
The overwhelming majority of parents that will be affected by the bill come from a lower income bracket, and they "will be more easily intimidated by the government agency and may even be lured to give information to the agency they would not normally give in the hope they would qualify for the services," Dacus said.
"The bottom line is (that) state and local governments have no business engaging in these kinds of fish hunting expeditions to find kids who are the age of five or six that are allegedly mentally ill," Dacus said.
Depending on the final wording, "we may end up challenging it in the courts on constitutional grounds as an invasion of family privacy. We're really alarmed," Dacus added.
-- Deb M. (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 15, 2000
"Dacus sees the bill as another attempt by legislators to broaden the government's authority over the family. The current system rewards local governments with federal dollars for every child it registers in its Child Protective Services system, he said. An example of this abuse is the fact that one Sacramento county registered a 400-percent increase in the number of children in its books over the past 10 years, he said. "
There ya go!
-- me (email@example.com), June 15, 2000.
Johnny, why did you machine-gun those kids?
-- (firstname.lastname@example.org), June 15, 2000.
From: Preparations, ` la Carte (pic), near Monterey, California
This is an AMA power grab.
-- Dancr (email@example.com), June 18, 2000.