By Patrick Anderson
Claims that girls at Gloucester High School made a pact to become pregnant — first questioned by city officials — are now being challenged by students at the school, including three of the girls who were pregnant this past school year and have recently had children.
The high school students, who are also new mothers, say they had never heard of an agreement among girls to have children before the idea appeared in stories last week.
Brianne Mackey, 17, who just completed her sophomore year at Gloucester High and whose baby girl Karlee was born 17 days ago, told the Times yesterday she was not part of any pregnancy pact and did not know any girls at the school who were.
"I have no clue where they got that from," Mackey said. "The first I heard about it was in the news."
Lindsey Oliver, also 17, appearing on ABCs "Good Morning America" program yesterday, said there was "definitely no pact" and that the surge in pregnancies at the high school this year was likely a "coincidence."
Another student who just completed her sophomore year, and recently gave birth to her second child, declined to be interviewed by the Times, but said by e-mail she was not part of any pact.
National and international news outlets descended on Gloucester after Time magazine published a story suggesting the spike in pregnancies at the high school this year, reported to be as high as 18 by some officials, had been spurred by a group of girls in the sophomore class who made a "pact" to have children together.
On Monday, Mayor Carolyn Kirk and schools Superintendent Christopher Farmer told dozens of newspaper and television reporters that no one at the high school, including Principal Joseph Sullivan, could substantiate reports of the pact or say where they started.
The Time article attributed the notion of the pact to Sullivan, who was not invited to the mayor's news conference. Kirk said Sullivan, when contacted, had not been able to remember who had told him about the pact.
A follow-up story published in Time on Monday said Sue Todd, chief executive officer of Pathways for Children, the Emerson Avenue nonprofit that runs the high school's day-care center, had told the magazine that her organization had heard about a "plan" among girls at the school to become pregnant last fall and had identified a group of students at O'Maley Middle School who had requested pregnancy tests as being at risk of becoming teen mothers.
Yesterday, Todd disputed knowing about or having referred to a pregnancy pact or plan and said Pathways had never identified a group of students at the middle school requesting pregnancy tests.
"We run the program and have excellent relationships with the girls and we have never heard about the pact and never said anything different," Todd said. "It is a multifaceted issue, and the fact that we stated that girls in middle school were requesting pregnancy tests was something I wouldn't know and couldn't say."
Dr. Brian Orr, the medical director of the high school health clinic who resigned in May over a dispute with members of a clinic advisory group about providing confidential access to contraceptives to students, also issued a statement to the Gloucester Daily Times yesterday, saying that neither he nor the clinic's chief nurse, Kim Daly, had ever heard of a "pregnancy pact."
Meanwhile, fellow high school students and recent graduates described a high school environment where rumors about formal cliques and pacts was rampant, despite limited evidence.
"Lots of people were talking about it, saying: 'This girl's pregnant. This other girl is pregnant,'" junior Kacia Lowe, 16, said yesterday. "But I did not know anyone who was part of a pact. I had heard a couple (of girls) decided to get together and get pregnant, but no one used names."
Olivia Peloquin, 18, who graduated a few weeks ago, said she had never heard about a premeditated plan among girls to get pregnant, but when the idea appeared in news reports, suggestions that a particular group of friends was involved quickly began to circulate.
Jessica Terranova, 19, a 2007 graduate of the high school, said she hadn't heard anything about the pact, but was surprised by reports of 18 students becoming pregnant.
"It's totally shocking," Terranova said. "Before, one person could get pregnant and it would be a big deal. It's like these girls don't think it is a big deal."
Times correspondent Christina M. Russo contributed to the story by staff writer Patrick Anderson. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org