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September 24, 2008

Pregnancy draft policy to be aired

The first draft of Gloucester Public Schools' policy responding to a rise in teen pregnancy includes maintaining in-school, day-care services for students, offering sex education that teaches effective use of contraceptives as well as abstinence, and laying out three choices on its most challenging question: whether to offer birth control in the school-based health clinic.

The options, which include blanket student access to confidential contraceptives, no distribution of contraceptives (either condoms or birth control pills) and an in-between choice of contraceptive availability only with parental consent, are outlined in the draft as a starting point for public discussion and School Committee deliberation.

Written by Superintendent Christopher Farmer and released yesterday, the draft is based on the comments of the School Committee and testimony of a three-expert panel that spoke on teen pregnancy in July. The School Committee is scheduled to discuss the draft tonight and make any desired changes before posting it on the district Web site.

It was created as a guide for the special public meeting discussion on teen pregnancy scheduled for next Wednesday as well as for the policy deliberations and vote expected from the School Committee later in the fall.

School Committee Chairman Greg Verga said yesterday that the draft represented a summary of the recommendations and thinking on teen pregnancy to date and could be added to based on the concerns or feelings of residents. It is in no way meant to limit public discussion next Wednesday, he said.

"The purpose of this is to summarize what we have heard to this point," Verga said. "Nothing is off the table as long as it relates to the issue. These are the key components of discussion and the purpose of the meetings is to see if we need to add anything to it."

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