, Gloucester, MA

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June 24, 2008

Officials: 'We can't confirm existence of pregnancy pact'

Teachers and staff at Gloucester High School have not been able to confirm the existence of a pact between students to become pregnant, School Superintendent Christopher Farmer said yesterday. And the man who first suggested the idea, Principal Joseph Sullivan, has told Farmer he does not recall who first suggested it.

Addressing dozens of reporters, along with Mayor Carolyn Kirk and School Committee Chairman Greg Verga, Farmer said Sullivan, in a recent conversation, "didn't remember" who first told him about a pregnancy pact or when, before he spoke with a reporter from Time magazine about the issue.

Farmer said he has not spoken with any of the girls who have become pregnant, but that school staff who have had contact with them all denied ever hearing of an agreement to become pregnant.

Sullivan was not present at the news conference or a closed-door meeting held hours before to discuss a citywide response to the media attention. Kirk said she was not comfortable having Sullivan at the event because the city "could not confirm his statements."

She would not comment on his job status.

"He was foggy in memory of how he heard the information," Kirk said. "When we pressed for specifics, his memory failed him."

The Times has not been able to reach Sullivan over the past several days.

The suggestion that the teenage girls made a binding communal decision to become pregnant, attributed to Sullivan in a Time magazine story published last week, has attracted intense media attention and overshadowed what had already been a contentious debate about whether confidential contraception should be made available at the high school health clinic.

In a June 13 interview with the Gloucester Daily Times, Sullivan said the spike in teen pregnancy at the high school, around four times the usual annual number, had been the result of a social "clique of girls who wanted to get pregnant."

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