After a school committee voted four to two in favor of a new policy, the high school in the Boston suburb of Revere, MA will make contraceptives available to students. Despite support from the superintendent, the Mayor, and the majority of the school committee, the new policy has generated some opposition.
The Revere School Committee began looking at the idea of making contraceptives available after the controversy over the spike in teen pregnancies in nearby Gloucester last year.[i] The Mayor of Revere cited his city’s own statistics as reason for his interest in the idea. He noted that the high school saw a 50 percent increase in teen pregnancy between the 2005–06 and 2007–08 school years.[ii]
The new policy allows high school students who are enrolled in the school-based health center to receive several forms of contraception if their parents sign up for the service when they enroll. Contraceptive services will include condoms, birth control pills, birth control shots, and emergency contraception pills.[iii]
After a number of discussions among school committee members, the committee voted on the measure at the end of February, but it has since received some criticism for both its handling of the vote and the decision itself.
One of the members of the school committee spoke out against the policy saying that she “couldn’t in good conscience vote for it… It increases promiscuity rather than having it be a deterrent to early sex.”[iv] The school has also received criticism from a Priest in the local Catholic Church who said the decision was “not good for children because we’re telling them that sex is a mechanical thing.”[v]
The same committee members who voted against the policy have also criticized the school for not involving more parents in the process. They believe there should have been fliers and announcements about the vote because the issue of providing students with contraception is controversial.
The Mayor responded that the decision was a matter of public health, made with the input of the local hospital that runs the school-based health center. He also reiterated that the school committee meetings are open to all parents and that the health center staff encourage students to talk to their parents.[vi]
The new policy will be included in the high school’s handbook next school year when the health center begins to make contraceptive services available.
[i] A spike in teen pregnancies and a reported “pregnancy pact” between 17 of the pregnant young women at Gloucester High School in spring 2008 caused concern among school officials and attracted the attention of national news media. For more information see SIECUS’ Community Action Update: <www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Feature.showFeature&featureid=1176&pageid=486&parentid=478>.
[ii] Seth Daniels, “School Committee approves contraception program - Strong opinions voiced by people on both sides of the debate,” Revere Journal, 12 March 2009, accessed on 15 March 2009, <http://www.reverejournal.com/2009/03/12/school-committee-approves-contraception-program-strong-opinions-voiced-by-people-on-both-sides-of-the-debate/ >.