Health

Gloucester board votes for birth control, birth control at Gloucester high school, Gloucester allows birth control
Stephan Savoia/AP

Gloucester School Board Votes to Distribute Contraceptives

October 09, 2008 01:15 PM
by findingDulcinea Staff
After a teen pregnancy scandal that made national news, the Gloucester school committee has unanimously voted to make birth control available to the town’s high school students.

Gloucester High School Will Offer Teens Birth Control

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The seven members of the Gloucester school committee have voted to make birth control available to high school students. Since suffering embarrassment after a Time magazine article exposed a pregnancy pact between students there, the school and town have been deciding how to rectify the issue. The board decided that birth control should be offered, but only with parental consent.

The committee drafted a first version of the policy and released it late September. The policy included continued day care for students with babies, sex education that discussed both birth control and abstinence, and three options for proceeding with the distribution of birth control.

Background: The drive for birth control in Gloucester

Although the town has denied there was ever a pregnancy pact, it formed an advisory committee to help the school make decisions about contraceptives. The committee included health professionals and pregnancy experts. Prior to the vote, three members of the school committee openly stated they would vote in favor of birth control as long as parental permission was required.

One member of the committee, Dr. Lauren Smith, was the medical director of the state Department of Public Health. She urged the school to look at the rise in teen pregnancy and have an “evidence-based response.” She worked with Addison Gilbert Hospital, which provides health services to the school, to devise a plan. Although the health clinic’s medical director had resigned claiming that the hospital was unwilling to provide the necessary services, the hospital listened to Smith’s suggestions. It stated that it was open to dispensing birth control, but wanted the school board to have a say in the matter.

The matter has caused considerable agitation for the Gloucester community, leading to the resignation of another official, high school president Joseph Sullivan. He was the one who told Time magazine that girls at the high school had made a pact to get pregnant, drawing considerable media attention. The mayor, superintendent and some of the girls, denied that there was a pact, though Sullivan would not rescind his statement. Despite denying the pact’s existence, the school committee is choosing to change the birth control policy in light of an overall rise in teen pregnancies.
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