GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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June 20, 2008

Gloucester officials question pregnancy 'pact'

As news outlets descended on Gloucester yesterday, captivated by discussion about the surge in teen pregnancies at the high school, city officials questioned reports that a formal agreement, or pact, had been made between the students to become pregnant and raise the babies together.

School Superintendent Christopher Farmer said he had never heard the term "pact" from students, parents, teachers or administrators at the high school and planned to investigate whether the agreement was real or a product of the national media.

"I had never heard the term 'pact' until Time magazine wrote it," Farmer said. "All we knew was that there was a small group of girls who were not disappointed in the idea of being pregnant. I had never heard of any kind of communal effort that girls were trying to get pregnant."

The idea of a pregnancy pact between students began circulating after Time indirectly quoted Principal Joseph Sullivan as saying half of the expecting students had agreed to have babies and raise them together.

In an interview Friday, June 6, the last day of school, Sullivan described to the Times the group who had become pregnant as a social "clique" of girls who wanted to have babies. Sullivan has been on vacation this week and cannot be reached.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk yesterday said many factors have led to what she called a "blip" in the pregnancy rate, from glamorization of teen pregnancy in pop culture to cuts in funding that have reduced teachers and health classes in Gloucester.

"I have not spoken to any of the girls and have no way of knowing whether (the pact) is true," Kirk said.

The mayor urged residents not to jump to conclusions.

Debate about ways to limit teen pregnancy at the high school began earlier in the year after staff at the school's health clinic reported a larger than usual number of girls requesting pregnancy tests and many of them expressing disappointment if the results did not come back positive.

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