School Officials Vote to Distribute Birth Control at Maine Middle School

PORTLAND, Maine – On Oct. 16 in a 7-2 vote, the Portland School Committee decided to offer birth control pills to students at King Middle School.

Students must obtain parental consent to visit the school’s health center; however, once a parent has signed the permission slip, the treatment a student receives will be confidential, according to state law.

Birth control pills and patches will be available to girls whose ages range from 11-13 after a physician or a nurse practitioner has performed a physical exam. King’s health center has been passing out condoms since 2000.

There has been uproar from parents and school officials alike who feel the policy not only violates the rights of a parent, but that the students are too young to receive contraception.

But members on the school committee believe the contraception is necessary. According to Douglas Gardner, director of Portland’s Health and Human Services Department, there have been seven pregnancies within Portland’s three middle schools in the last 5 years. Other news reports, which Gardner says were erroneous, stated there were 17 pregnancies in the last four years. That number does not include the number of miscarriages and abortions that were not reported to school officials.

Advocates of the new policy include nurses and the school’s principal Mike McCarthy. He says the school has to protect students from risky behavior, especially if they are not discussing the issues with their parents.

Others say they see how students’ lives are ruined by unwanted pregnancies. They claim students need to get protection from the school if they cannot get it from other sources.

It is unclear whether prescriptions will be offered during the current school year or the following year.

Portland is one of the few cities, including Seattle and Baltimore, to offer birth control to middle school students.

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