Mayor Carolyn Kirk of Gloucester in Massachusetts maintains there is no independent confirmation of teen pregnancy pact in a high school there, but says she is still concerned.
Ever since the Time magazine broke the story of the supposed pact concerning 17 girls, the fishing town of Gloucester has been reeling under harsh media glare. In fact some local reports put the number at 18. The girls are all 16 or younger, and nearly all of them sophomores, in their second year of undergraduation.
But Mayor Carolyn Kirk told news agency AP, "The high school principal is the one who initially said it, and no one else has said it," Kirk said. "None of the counselors at the school, none of the teachers who know these children and none of the families have spoken about it.
"So, my position is that it has not been confirmed," she said.
However, she said, she planned to meet Monday with school, health and other local officials to discuss the issue.
Christopher Farmer, Superintendent Gloucester Public Schools, had convened a meeting last month to discuss the situation surrounding the resignation of School District's Physician, Dr. Brian Orr, and Nurse Practitioner, Kim Daley.
The two had put in their papers to protest the local hospital's refusal to support a proposal to distribute contraceptives to youngsters at the school without parental consent.
At the meeting, Farmer did confirm reports of 17 teen pregnancies at Gloucester High School this year.
He also explained that the Student Health Advisory Board, which includes Dr. Orr, Jack Voundras, Director of Health, Ann Marie Jordan, Health Educator, and additional members of the district staff, had been working on an intervention strategy to
submit to the School Committee for review and vote.
This draft proposal included a multi-strand approach to deal with teen pregnancies, including ways to encourage students to say no to pre-marital sex, community and parent support and awareness, and proposals on the benefits/risks of prescribing contraceptives at the GHS Health Center.
The heavily Roman Catholic town, which has a large Italian and Portuguese population, has long been supportive of teen mothers. The high school has a day-care center for students and employees.
Interestingly, none of the Gloucester High School students who got pregnant or had children during the school year have dropped out, and Principal Joseph Sullivan credits the in-school day-care program and health clinic with keeping them in school, according to a report in Gloucester Daily Times.
But this year's spike in teen pregnancies at the will pose a huge challenge for the day-care center in September. Only three young mothers were enrolled in the program for the academic year that just ended. For 2008-2009, eight have applied for the seven available slots in the free program, and there's already a waiting list, the newspaper said.
Across the country, studies have linked teen pregnancy to high dropout rates and since 1996 Gloucester High School officials have utilized child-care and parent services provided by local nonprofit Pathways for Children to keep student-mothers in school.
But for the upcoming school year, "It is a concern that we may not be able to provide services for everyone who needs it," Lisa Sorrento, program coordinator at Pathways, said. "At this point, we don't know if all the mothers will stay on the list."
Sorrento said she did not know what any mothers will do if they cannot get a spot in the day-care program, called the Young Families Initiative.
Some have also raised questions about whether having day-care in the school might be encouraging students to have babies and contributing to the problem.