Is the school district under in loco parentis, permitted to seek and hospitalize a child who is in a mental health crisis, when the school cannot reach the parent ow without contacting the parent. There is no attempted suicide or any injury to the student. Is the school able to contact the local emergency crisis program and have the child seen without parent consent? Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

  • 1
    Not a political question, definitely a legal question. A bit...unnerving to imagine a government entity (Washington County BHDS) getting legal advice from a forum though. Don't you have a legal team you can ask?
    – David Rice
    Mar 12, 2019 at 14:26
  • I am moving this to Law Stack Exchange.
    – Philipp
    Mar 12, 2019 at 16:54
  • My answer below assumes the state of PA based on a google result. If the OP is in another state, please indicate the state. If in PA, please confirm. Mar 12, 2019 at 22:51

1 Answer 1


According to PA Statutes 50 P.S. Mental Health § 7201

Any person 14 years of age or over who believes that he is in need of treatment and substantially understands the nature of voluntary treatment may submit himself to examination and treatment under this act, provided that the decision to do so is made voluntarily.  A parent, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis to a child less than 14 years of age may subject such child to examination and treatment under this act, and in so doing shall be deemed to be acting for the child.  Except as otherwise authorized in this act, all of the provisions of this act governing examination and treatment shall apply.

Section 7203 says:

Before a person is accepted for voluntary inpatient treatment, an explanation shall be made to him of such treatment, including the types of treatment in which he may be involved, and any restraints or restrictions to which he may be subject, together with a statement of his rights under this act.  Consent shall be given in writing upon a form adopted by the department.

Section 7204 says:

Upon the acceptance of an application for examination and treatment by a minor 14 years or over but less than 18 years of age, the director of the facility shall promptly notify the minor's parents, guardian, or person standing in loco parentis, and shall inform them of the right to be heard upon the filing of an objection.  Whenever such objection is filed, a hearing shall be held within 72 hours by a judge or mental health review officer, who shall determine whether or not the voluntary treatment is in the best interest of the minor.

Section 7301 says:

Whenever a person is severely mentally disabled and in need of immediate treatment, he may be made subject to involuntary emergency examination and treatment.  A person is severely mentally disabled when, as a result of mental illness, his capacity to exercise self-control, judgment and discretion in the conduct of his affairs and social relations or to care for his own personal needs is so lessened that he poses a clear and present danger of harm to others or to himself.

According to this ACLU page

A minor age 14 or older may consent to inpatient mental health treatment as long as the consent is knowing and voluntary. If minors ages 14 through 17 are admitted for inpatient care, their parents or guardians must be promptly notified. Once a minor gives consent to inpatient care, a parent or guardian cannot override that consent and remove the minor from care.


Minors ages 14 and older may consent to outpatient mental health examination and treatment without parental consent or notice. ... A parent or legal guardian may also consent to outpatient mental health examination and treatment on behalf of a minor without the minor’s consent. Neither the parent nor the minor may override the other’s consent. For outpatient care, there is no process for a minor to object to treatment, unlike inpatient care.


When an attempt to secure consent would result in a delay in treatment and would increase the risk to the minor patient’s life or health, the minor may receive health services without the prior consent of a parent or legal guardian.

This includes medical treatment and forensic examination following sexual assault

From all of that, it would seem that the child can consent if s/he is of age 14 or older. Treatment may be provided in the absence of consent if there is a "clear and present danger of harm to others or to himself" which seems to mean suicide attempts, or threats to others combined with actual attempts to carry out those threats, or actual violence to others. Absent parental consent, and absent any of those circumstances, it seems that all that can be done is to notify the parents.

But really, a lawyer should be consulted as I may have missed some significant law or cou4t decision. I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. This is just what the law seems to say, on a quick online search.

  • There are Washington counties in several other states.
    – phoog
    Mar 12, 2019 at 22:47
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    @phoog : There are indeed, but "Washington County BHDS" gave a google result only for PA Mar 12, 2019 at 22:51
  • Aha! Very clever.
    – phoog
    Mar 13, 2019 at 0:18
  • This seems to provide one option for immediate care: getting the consent of the minor. However, it does not address the question's specific proposal of having the school act in loco parentis. Does in fact the school or some individual at the school have the standing to act in loco parentis for the minor? If so, it seems clear that they can consent for the minor, but from these excerpts it is not clear to me if the school has that standing. (Nor that they don't.) From the described situation, there doesn't seem an immediate risk that would not require consent (the final quote).
    – Brythan
    Mar 13, 2019 at 5:39

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