, Gloucester, MA

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October 2, 2008

Parents, students speak out at hearing

Providing contraceptives at high school debated

Residents of a divided Gloucester issued passionate pleas last night both for and against offering contraceptives to students at the high school health center at a special public meeting on teen pregnancy that showed significant resistance exists among the community for offering birth control without parental consent.

"I strongly disagree with the option of confidential contraception in school," said Jim Spillman of Magnolia Avenue. "Parents are primary owners of the responsibility to educate their children."

Offering a counterpoint and injecting a youthful view in a debate often commanded by parents and adult experts, a contingent of high schoolers joined the crowd of around 50 at City Hall and delivered news of general — but not exclusive — enthusiasm for access to contraceptives among the student body.

"There should be contraceptives, but there should be limits," said junior Pamela Tobey, reporting the sentiment of the student council, which met to discuss pregnancy on Monday.

The limits students recommended, Tobey said, were age limits on who could receive contraceptives and rules requiring they get follow-up care to make sure they are using them correctly.

Kyle Smith, vice president of the senior class, said results of a recent, unscientific survey of the senior class indicated 86 percent of seniors felt contraceptives should be offered and 49 percent said they would be comfortable talking about contraception with a parent.

But junior Allison Phillips said she felt that contraceptives in the high school would create more problems then they would solve.

"We believe it would be unnecessary to provide contraceptives without consent," Phillips said. "The majority should not be affected by the minority, because the problem cannot be solved. Sex education needs to be discussed and the consequences made clear."

Several parents echoed the concern that confidential birth control would take away responsibility and authority rightly held by parents.

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