This week the Portland, ME school board approved the distribution of birth control pills in it's middle school where the student ages range from 11 to 13.
This was a hot topic on the Boston airwaves and I sent the following email to Michael Graham at WTKK-FM, 96.9.
I found the decision by the Portland school board very disappointing. According to reports, 5 out of 134 students told the nurse they were sexually active - that's 3.7%.
Yourself and a significant number of callers stated that birth control should NOT be given out without parental consent. I can't agree more. Unfortunately, in the case of Portland, ME, the parents already gave their consent. Children cannot go the school clinic without first obtaining parental consent. I would be very interested in knowing the rules regarding parental access to their child's school medical records.
The real issue is does the school health official have the right to step in and act as the parent when either the parent failed to manage their child's behavior or the child, regardless of the parents efforts, decides to be defiant and proceed to have under age sex. The school nurse is NOT a substitute parent. And even though general parental consent was given to use the clinic, birth control pills should NOT be provided to students in middle school.
I'm not even sure if I would agree with giving birth control pills to students under the age of 15. A quick internet search (http://www.cga.ct.gov/2003/olrdata/jud/rpt/2003-R-0149.htm) indicated that in Maine statutory rape occurs with someone under the age of 14. If you provide 11 to 13 year olds birth control, aren't you enabling and or encouraging them to have sex and break the law? Of course the rebuttal is that the school is merely trying to avoid unwanted pregnancies and not trying to encourage this behavior.
I do not believe that the action of 5 or 10 students justifies this change in policy. It merely indicates the continuing need to have both parents and educators teach children about adult sexual behavior and the ramifications of that behavior. Will this stop every child from having underage sex? Of course not. But isn't it better than opening the flood gates to enabling underage sexual behavior to all who have obtained permission to use the clinic?