Success for Plaintiffs in Four-Year Legal Battle to Protect Teens’ Sexual Privacy
New York – Today, the Center for Reproductive Rights announced that the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit dismissed the government’s appeals in its case against Kansas’ “kiss and tell” policy, supported by former Attorney General Phill Kline. That policy would have required health care providers and counselors to report all sexual activity by teenagers under 16, including kissing between two teens, to state authorities as evidence of child abuse. A group of health care and counseling professionals represented by the Center filed the case challenging the policy and succeeded in permanently blocking it in 2006. Kline and the defendant prosecutors appealed. The case, Aid for Women v. Foulston, was dismissed because the Kansas state legislature recently revised the state’s child abuse reporting law in a way that makes clear that the law does not require blanket reporting of all adolescent sexual contact.
“This is a great result for teenagers in Kansas, and for all those who care about protecting teen’s health and well-being,” said Bonnie Scott Jones, lead trial attorney in the case and senior attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Reporting suspected child abuse is one thing. But reporting all intimate conduct between adolescents simply drives a wedge between those young people and the professionals who are there to help them.”
The Center’s legal battle against the policy started four years ago after former Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline issued an interpretation of the state’s child abuse reporting law. Under the broadly written interpretation, a school nurse would have to report her 15-year-old student who disclosed that she was “making out” with her 15-year-old boyfriend. The Center challenged, arguing that any threat to confidentiality-let alone reporting sexually active adolescents to the state-is a strong deterrent against adolescents seeking health care and counseling.
In April 2006, the U.S. District Court of the District of Kansas permanently blocked enforcement of Kline’s legal opinion, declaring it irreparably harmful and recognizing that minors have a right to informational privacy concerning sexual activity.
Bonnie Scott Jones, the Center’s President Nancy Northup, and Beth McGilley, a therapist and plaintiff in Kansas are available to discuss the ramifications of this case and victory, as well as the larger context in which this action has occurred.
For more information on this case and the Center for Reproductive Rights, please visit www.reproductiverights.org.