[quote]PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – [b]After an outbreak of pregnancies among middle school girls, education officials in this city have decided to allow a school health center to make birth control pills available to girls as young as 11.
King Middle School will become the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available, including birth control pills and patches. Condoms have been available at King’s health center since 2000.[/b]
Students need parental permission to access the school’s health center. But treatment is confidential under state law, which allows the students to decide whether to inform their parents about the services they receive.
There are no national figures on how many middle schools provide such services. Most middle schoolers range in age from 11 to 13.
“It’s very rare that middle schools do this,” said Divya Mohan, a spokeswoman for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care.
[b]Portland’s three middle schools reported 17 pregnancies during the last four years, not counting miscarriages or terminated pregnancies that weren’t reported to the school nurse.
The Portland School Committee approved the plan, offered by city health officials, on a 7-2 vote Wednesday night. Whether the prescriptions would be offered this school year or next wasn’t immediately clear.[/b]
King is the only one of the three schools with a health center, primarily because it has more students who get free or reduced-price lunch, said Lisa Belanger, who oversees Portland’s student health centers.
Five of the 134 students who visited King’s health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland’s school health centers.
Committee member Sarah Thompson, also the mother of a King eighth-grader, supported the policy, even though it made her “uncomfortable.”
“I know I’ve done my job as a parent,” Thompson said. “(But there) may be a time when she doesn’t feel comfortable coming to me … (and) not all these kids have a strong parental advocate at home.”
Chairman John Coyne opposed the change, saying the roles of social agencies and public schools have blurred over the years. “At some point there needs to be a clearing of the gray lines,” he said.
The other “no” vote Wednesday night came from Ben Meiklejohn, who said a parental consent form, which allows students to receive any kind of treatment at the school health center, does not clearly define the services being offered.
[b]Some opponents cited religious and health objections.
“We are dealing with children,” said Diane Miller, a former school nurse said. “I am just horrified at the suggestion.”
Another opponent, Peter Doyle, said he felt the proposal violated the rights of parents and puts students at risk of cancer because of hormones in the pill.[/b]
[b]Supporters said a small number of students at King are sexually active, but they need better access to birth control.
“This isn’t encouraging kids to have sex. This is about the kids who are engaging in sexually activity,” Richard Veilleux said.
At King, birth control prescriptions will be given after a student undergoes a physical exam by a physician or nurse practitioner, Belanger said.
Nationally, about one-fourth of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older dispense some form of contraception, said Mohan, whose Washington-based organization represents more than 1,700 school-based centers nationwide.[/b]
A high school in Topeka, Kansas, stopped providing free condoms to students Wednesday after district officials learned of the month-old program. The district has a policy against providing contraceptives.[/quote]
I really don’t know what to make of this. Anything that prevents STDs and unwanted pregnancies is good, I guess. Still…this just seems so bizarre. Middle school sweethearts are supposed to awkwardly hold hands before their friends come by to make fun of them. “Billy and Susie, sittin’ in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G…” They’re not supposed to be making babies for Christ’s sake.