The Hatch Letter: Protect and Promote Parental Rights in School Mental Health
Due to Texas legislation passed this year, our school system is undergoing a change. With threat assessment teams and an increased focus on school mental health, parents need to be prepared for intrusive questions, attempts to get them to consent to mental health screening and mental health referrals for their children. Parents with school-aged children need to know their rights.
While there are other tools, one of the first things parents can do is file a statement known as a “Hatch Letter” with their school, putting them on notice that they do not want their child questioned, screened, or exposed to certain material; and expect full access to their child’s records and teaching materials.
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA, also known as the Hatch Amendment) requires parental notice and consent before a child can be asked about certain subjects in a U.S. Department of Education funded survey, analysis or evaluation. Subjects include mental health, political affiliation, religious affiliation, sexual behavior and attitudes and much more. You can see the basics here: https://www2.ed.gov/policy//gen/guid/fpco/ppra/index.html
Over time, the PPRA has been amended to include even more protections. Here is a link to further discussion: https://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ppra/parents.html . Today, you can use the amendment to access student records, examine what your child is being taught, and more.
This amendment coincides with state laws allowing you to access information concerning your child, your right to inspect educational materials, and your right to temporarily remove your child from a class or other school activity that conflicts with your religious or moral beliefs. There are limits to this, and you should know them. This is covered in Texas Education Code Sec.26.010. You can read it here: https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/ED/htm/ED.26.htm#26.010
While you’re at it, you should read Chapter 26 of the Texas Education Code in full. It deals with parental rights. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/ED/htm/ED.26.htm#26.010
A Hatch Letter Can Help You to Protect Your Rights
Parents can file a letter with the school, putting the school on notice about their wishes concerning mental health screenings or questionnaires, sex education, mental health education, and more.
Sample Hatch Letters can be found online by searching “sample hatch amendment letter. It’s your letter. Amend it as you wish. A shorter letter can be found through CCHR International: https://www.cchrint.org/pdfs/parent-exemption-form.pdf. Given that Texas and some other states have adopted mental health education that includes such things as role-playing mental illness, teaching children that their brains are responsible for their behavior, or that chemical imbalances can result in mental illness; some parents may feel such teachings violate their religious or moral beliefs. Use your own judgement and tailor your letter to your own needs.
You have parental rights whether or not you submit a “Hatch Letter.” However, a number of public and private mental health providers are partnering with schools. Why not let your school know where you stand now?
CCHR International has a great page of facts about psychiatric drugs, diagnoses, alternatives, and some of your rights. You can find it here: https://www.cchrint.org/issues/childmentaldisorders/
Texas parents have a robust set of rights. We encourage you to devote some time to learning them. The links above are a start. In future letters, we’ll let you know more.
If you feel your school is pressuring you to subject your child to unwanted psychiatric screening or treatment, call:
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights- Texas: 800-572-2905
This letter is for educational and discussion purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice. If you need legal help, or need help interpreting specific laws, please consult an attorney or special education advocate.
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights is a non-profit organization whose primary purpose is the protection and promotion of human rights in mental health.