If anyone has been paying attention to the "national news" lately you probably know all about the birth control decision that was recently made at a Portland, ME middle school. From a NYTimes article
Two days after the school committee voted 7 to 2 in favor of adding prescription contraceptives to the services offered at the health clinic, the issue continues to draw fervent support and ardent opposition in this city of 64,000, the largest in Maine.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Cathleen Allen, whose son is enrolled at King. “Someone is finally advocating for these students to take care of themselves.”
Ms. Allen added, “It’s an eye-opener for all of us, but when you look at the facts, why not?”
Bishop Richard J. Malone of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland is calling on the school committee to rescind its decision, as have the state and city Republican Parties. The city party is also pushing a recall for members who voted in favor.
Nick McGee, the city’s Republican Party chairman, said of the policy, “It is an attack on the moral fabric of our community, and a black eye for our state.”
No doubt, there will be people jawing on this with their neighbours, pastors, children, and relatives for some time to come. Sometimes there is no reasonable middle ground available to come to a compromise. The way I see it, you're either providing birth control or your not - no matter what your limitations or restrictions - and if you require parental consent than you're effectively perpetrating what I like to call an "unavailable-available service" (see Douglas Adam's intro to Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
, in which Arthur Dent is told that he had plenty of time to object to the tearing down of his house for the purposes of building an overpass because "the public plans have been available and on display for some time," yet the display
was in a musty basement, behind file cabinets, in a locked and disused bathroom).
I bring all of this up because, in the face of a national media firestorm, the only voices of reason I've seen thus far has actually come straight from the students themselves. See the In media spotlight, kids don't blink
column in Saturday's Portland Press Herald:
"Don't believe everything you hear," cautioned Katy DeJesus, 13, an eighth-grader at King. "Make sure you know all of the important things before you judge people -- and their school."
Sitting around a small table Friday morning, four of Katy's classmates nodded in agreement.
"King Middle School is a great place to be and a safe place to be," said Grania Power, 14. "And you shouldn't believe everything you hear about us."
.. This fall, as luck would have it, the 60-plus students in the eighth-grade Windsor House embarked on an expedition titled "Truth or Consequences." It includes an in-depth look at how stories sometimes get spun by the media.
Last week, they were just talking about this often bewildering phenomenon. This week, they found themselves living it.
Friday morning, Principal Michael McCarthy and I sat down with Windsor House to talk about the nation's sudden obsession with their school and their sexuality.
McCarthy gave a calm, point-by-point account of what actually happened, from the rationale behind the new birth control policy through Wednesday evening's 7-2 School Committee vote in favor of it.
[After the talk, the students asked]
- Why did the news cameras outside the school focus only on the 11-year-olds, rather than the kids who are 13, 14 or 15?
- Why did the initial report quote only people who were supportive of the plan?
- Why does one story say kids need permission to use the health center, while another says they can get birth control pills "without parental permission?"
Good points, all. It gives me pause whenever the hypocrisy and delusional emotions of our adult society is trumped by a few tweens.