Archive for Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Double Take: ‘Kiss and Tell’ case good example of why kids should follow politics

Julia Davidson, and Dr. Wes Crenshaw

Julia Davidson, and Dr. Wes Crenshaw

October 9, 2007


Dr. Wes: In February 2006, Marissa Ballard and I discussed then-Attorney General Phill Kline's attempt to extend the Kansas mandatory child abuse reporting law to include disclosures of consensual sex by teenagers under the age of 16. This meant that if a 14-year-old shared with her doctor or therapist that she was sexually active, that professional would be legally responsible for reporting this to the Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services as child sexual abuse. Talk about a cooling effect on the doctor-patient relationship. Both Marissa and I commented that this was probably the worst innovation in managing teen sexuality ever imagined. Real sexual abuse - the exploitation of a minor by a peer or an adult - should be reported and investigated. But Kline's argument took this much further, and it raised far more questions than it answered. It was one of several issues that lead Kansans to vote overwhelmingly to reject Kline's re-election bid later that fall.

In fairness to Kline, the Kansas mandatory reporting statue (K.S.A. 38-1522) was pretty vague, and it's rarely been enforced. If you stretch your imagination a bit, you can understand how Kline became confused about its scope. The question most of us had at the time was WHY Kline was so interested in making that stretch. Whether we like it or not, there are teens under 16 who are sexually active. The last thing we should do is seek out a novel way of interpreting the law that drives teenagers further away from sharing their stories with health care providers.

We're happy to report that last week the matter was finally put to rest. The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed what has become known as the Kansas "Kiss and Tell" case. A group of health care and counseling professionals filed a case challenging the policy and succeeded in permanently blocking it in 2006. Kline appealed before his tenure was ended. By that time the Kansas Legislature had revised the statute to make it clear that the law does not require blanket reporting. Of course, the ruling doesn't endorse early sexual activity among teens. However, most of the cool heads that have prevailed understand that reporting such behavior to the state is an incredible deterrent to families, health care providers and others dealing with the issue. Besides, SRS has more than enough on its plate.

In February 2006 this issue also caused Double Take to remind parents and teens that politics isn't just something "out there." It affects our lives each and every day. While many teens don't give political intrigue much thought, the "Kiss and Tell" case was a powerful reminder of how many governmental issues do affect teenagers. As we close out another odd chapter in recent Kansas history, I would reiterate the importance of taking an active role in how our nation, state and local communities are run. Even a quick review of current events suggests the need for each of us, even those who can't yet vote, to be vigilant in protecting our civil rights and demanding good government.

Recently the Journal-World reported on a young woman whose first task on her 18th birthday was to register to vote. I found it exciting that a young person would make voter registration her birthday present to herself - and sad that this event was newsworthy. I hope in the coming years that the disturbing issues of our day will instead make political action the routine among young people.

Julia: Speaking from the perspective of a potentially kiss-and-tell affected teenager, I would agree with the majority's opinion: BAD IDEA. Nothing could further enlarge the gap between adults and teenagers than to create one more invasion of privacy that teens could add to their list. Thankfully, the case has come to a close.

Teens are significantly less involved with the political world that surrounds them and that they will be forced to experience once they are adults. In fact, I'm sorry to say that I had not heard about "Kiss and Tell" until after the fact when the case had already been closed. However, upon reading up on it, I was surprised and a little enraged. The idea that those columns in the newspaper and stories on TV could have affected me without my knowing it is a loud wake-up call.

To my audience of teenagers and young adults - be aware of what is going on around you. Do not let yourself become ignorant of what goes on in the nation, state, city or even your school. I realize the mention of "politics" brings to mind an old man in a stuffy suit, but there's so much more to it than meets the eye.

To my adult audience - fostering an interest in local events can give children a basis in politics and keep them up to date. When I became involved with my mom's local volunteering efforts, it opened up a slew of local issues that I had no idea about. Getting involved in Lawrence's political scene gave rise to new opinions, new concerns and a desire to know and understand more.

To all readers, find a way to become involved - volunteering, student council. Anything is something. In a recent poll, 21 percent of Americans were able to identify U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, while 77 percent of Americans were able to identify Cindy Crawford. It's sad that the nipped and tucked are able to hold our attention easier than the people who help run our country, but it is a sign that we need to open our eyes and be aware of what affects our lives.

Next week: My son is rude. Is it normal teen behavior, or a sign of something more serious?

- Dr. Wes Crenshaw is a board-certified family psychologist and director of the Family Therapy Institute Midwest. Julia Davidson is a Bishop Seabury Academy junior. Opinions and advice given here are not meant as a substitute for psychological evaluation or therapy services. Send your questions about adolescent issues to All correspondence is strictly confidential.


SettingTheRecordStraight 10 years, 8 months ago

A blatant political hit piece. Sheesh. They don't even pretend to remain objective.

Baille 10 years, 8 months ago

It's a column, not a news story. Nothing unethical about it:

Furthermore, they are right. Kline's attempt to reinterpret that law was asinine. He couldn't justify his position during discussions with those in the legal field during his campaign and he couldn't justify it after he was elected.

Kline's position was ill-thought out and would have been disastrous if made policy.

Godot 10 years, 8 months ago

If I had teenagers, that is precisely what I would not want: more "privacy rights" for the children and teachers/counselors who conspire with my children in order to hide their dangerous and, possibly illegal, behaviour from me.

Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 10 years, 8 months ago

If somebody was having sexual relations with your 12 year old daughter would you want to know about it?

matahari 10 years, 8 months ago

I would still like to know what Julia Davidson, and Dr. Wes Crenshaw have in common, and why they are doing a 'duo' advise column. He much obviously older than she.....what's the connection?

guesswho 10 years, 8 months ago

Every year a teenager is selected to represent a 'teen view' of a question or issue that is presented to Dr. Crenshaw.

Baille 10 years, 8 months ago

"If somebody was having sexual relations with your 12 year old daughter would you want to know about it?"

That is absolutely not the issue. A 12 year old having sex is inherently harmful to the child, but that does not make it forcible rape or child abuse in every circumstance. A twelve-year-old having consensual sex with another 12 year old is certainly a problem, but If that doesn't mean it is best handled by getting SRS and the local DAs office involved.

Under the current scheme, a mandated reporter (therapist, doctor, and so forth) is obligated to report reasonably suspected abuse and/or neglect - NOT to the parent but the the state. Parental notification is simply not an issue.

Under Kline's scheme, mandated reporters would have had to report to SRS and the DA every instant of sexual contact (sexual contact not limited to intercourse or its near equivalent) between minors that was known or reasonably suspected whether that contact was abusive or even could be said to cause harm. There could be no greater chilling effect on a counselor/client or physician/patient relationship.

As it is professionals who are mandated reporters have discretion in determining whether any particular conduct or set of circumstances is abusive or has caused harm to a child. Once they determine or reasonably suspect abuse has occured (or once other in theyr profession would consider it professionally negligent not to report), they have no discretion. They must report.

Kline would have taken that discretion away - mandating that in every instance of sexual contact between minors counselors and doctors turn them into the state. That was crazy. It would have resulted in grievous and irreparable harm to children. Our children our better off for his failure - and for his defeat.

denak 10 years, 8 months ago

I think Dr. Crenshaw is right. Whether we like it or not, there are teenagers who are having sex and whether we like it or not, most of the time, it is consensual. If it is consensual, and the two people are the same age or a close to the same age, there is no need for the state via SRS to get involved.

This is not the same as a teen being raped or sexually abused. Anytime a teen is sexually abused, it is mandatory to report it.

Reporting consensual sex is a waste of time. Where is the crime? It might make parents have a panic attack, but it isn't a crime.


tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years, 8 months ago

"Next week: My son is rude. Is it normal teen behavior, or a sign of something more serious?"

It could mean that he's been spending too much time in the LJW online reader forums.

First steps: check his screen name, and review his comment history."

tangential_reasoners_anonymous 10 years, 8 months ago

"If somebody was having sexual relations with your 12 year old daughter would you want to know about it?"

"We would like, however, to keep the following folks out of it: 1) An entire unit of SRS in Topeka 2) An entire wing of KBI 3) The Kansas Attorney General 4) All of the assistants to the AG 5) The folks who work in record-keeping at srs, ag, kbi etc. "Family health issues" will remain just that: FAMILY** health issues."

Geez, if your 12-year-old daughter was having sex with ALL those people, do you think it would remain just a "Family" health issue?

Terry Jacobsen 10 years, 8 months ago

If someone is having sexual relations with my 12 year old daughter, I want that someone in jail. Without getting these other offiicals involved nothing can happen except to sweep the whole thing under a rug and hide. That isn't healthy for anyone.

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