Saturday, 2:15 PM
Panel to talk about teen pregnancy in Gloucester
By Kathy McCabe, Globe Staff
The Gloucester School Committee will meet in special session tonight to hear from specialists on how best to approach the rising teen pregnancy rate at the high school.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk
Mayor Carolyn Kirk set up the session after 17 pregnancies were reported among students at Gloucester High this year at the school's health center. The number is four times the norm for the 1,200-student high school. Officials hope the panel discussion will provide guidance for the School Committee as it considers its next step.
"We will consider carefully what they say, and what it means for Gloucester," Kirk said in a recent interview.
The School Committee had been expected to decide next month whether contraceptives should be made available at a health clinic in the high school. Kirk, a member of the School Committee, said that timetable has changed.
"We may have to slow down a little bit," Kirk said. "The committee needs to be thoughtful and deliberative, and not rush policy implementation until they're ready."
A series of "listening posts" will also be held throughout the city to solicit public input. A schedule for the sessions has not yet been determined.
The spike in teen pregnancies in Gloucester made news as far away as England and Japan after Time magazine reported that the girls made a pact to get pregnant. The report of a pact, which was based on statements by Principal Joseph Sullivan, was later discounted. The pregnancy problem was mocked in Fourth of July Horribles parades in nearby Beverly Farms and Salem.
The public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. in the auditorium at City Hall. Panelists will include Dr. Lauren Smith, medical director at the state Department of Public Health; Dr. Karen Hacker, executive director of the Institute for Community Health in Cambridge; and Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy. The city's public health director, Jack Vondras, and School Superintendent Christopher Farmer will also participate.
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