The School Committee of Portland, Maine recently voted to make birth control pills available to middle school girls, some as young as 11-years-old. As you might expect, the reaction of many of the parents of these youngsters was somewhere between apoplexy and murderous intentions. First, let’s hear the side of the School Committee members.

The vote in favor of dispensing birth control pills to the youngsters was based largely on 17 pregnancies reported in Portland’s three middle schools in 2006. The data, said TIME magazine, “did not count miscarriages or unreported pregnancies that ended in abortions.” The school receiving the most attention was King Middle School, where five students who visited the school’s health center said they were sexually active.

It should be noted that most of the unsuspecting parents readily signed off on permission for their children to visit the health center, which routinely treats acne, colds, minor injuries in gym class, as well as flu shots and other immunizations. Once admitted to the health center, the children can request and receive birth control pills without the parents being notified. It’s up to the students to tell their parents about any treatment or services received.

Newspaper and television coverage of the practice has generated outrage on the part of many parents. A Republican-led effort is underway to oust the committee members (seven out of nine) who supported the measure. Middle schools in Maine cover grades six through eight, and most students in this group are 11 to 13 years old.

Letters to the Portland Press Herald were surprisingly evenly divided, many writers saying that this “isn’t the 1950s, where most students come from stable, loving homes where their parents give them a hug and a kiss every day.” A seventh-grader from King Middle School wrote in to say, “Most of the students feel that we might not be able to stop these students [from being sexually active], but at least our school can help by keeping them safe and from becoming parents at such a young age.”

The seventh-grader hit upon a weighty point. The Internet is swarming with pornography sites and sexually suggestive chat rooms. Television no longer waits until the kids are in bed before launching episodes of sexually explicit programs. And when there is one of the frequent commercial breaks, the product is often for pills that offer new heights in sexual fulfillment.

The angry parents also pointed out that this is one more example of “the little tin gods in government” deciding what’s good for us. The hauteur of many of those in power has been compared to the “shower adjuster” – one who reaches into the privacy of your shower stall and adjusts the water temperature because he or she feels it isn’t right for you. To put it another way, are the schools justified in preempting parents in imparting morality?

So which is more damaging to the students: preventing them from getting pregnant by issuing the birth control pills and perhaps promoting promiscuousness – or counseling them to delay sexual activity until later, and getting the schools out of the business of contraception? It should be noted that Portland’s middle school program advocates the use of skin patches, implants, and condoms as well as the pill.

Former congressman Bob Barr contributed a column to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this month in which he wrote that “the very same school systems fixated on providing their young charges with birth control options, are failing miserably to provide an adequate basic education in subjects that really do belong in schools.” Barr revealed that 57 percent of Portland’s eighth graders do not meet standards for reading. In math and science things get even worse. Seventy-one percent fail in these areas. “After all,” Barr concludes, “if the kids can’t read the warning label on a dispenser of birth control pills, do we really want them taking the pills?”

An 11-year-old is just that: eleven years old! Such a child is still dependent, naive, exploitable, trusting, and unsophisticated in the ways of the street. School officials have a solemn duty, as do parents, to protect these children from themselves. Can sexual encounters at the age of eleven, even with contraception, be anything but toxic and detrimental?

Many of the current adolescent attitudes toward sexual activity can be traced to the examples of their elders. Some say a turning point in youthful sexual activity came from then-president Bill Clinton. During his impeachment hearings, Clinton uttered the memorable words, “I did not have sex with that woman.” The woman, of course, was Monica Lewinsky. And we learned that Clinton did indeed have sexual contact with her, the hair-splitting caveat being it was not the kind of sex that produces babies.

So if any form of sex other than the “missionary position” is not really sex, who can fault dupable, exploitable preteens ready to experiment? This is really a no-brainer. Whether you are for or against providing birth control pills to preteens, the decision to dispense them should not reside in the hands of political office seekers. Rather, it should be in the hands of the parents, who are charged with 24-hour guardianship and responsibility.

What makes the matter especially pernicious is that the politicians are usurping the parents’ authority, while the parents are seldom aware their 11-year-old has been given the pill. Education Week, in its October 24 edition, says that nationally, about a quarter of student health centers that serve at least one grade of adolescents 11 and older, dispense some form of contraception.

The basic premise of this blog is this: If a parent thinks his or her child is sleeping around, and decides the answer is the pill, even for an 11-year-old, that parent is at least making an informed decision. When a school board or committee decides, in their omnipotence, that your child is promiscuous, and therefore contraceptive medication is in order, that is a clear usurpation of parental rights.

If you believe in the doctrine of, “We’re the government and we will decide what’s good for you,” it is your right to surrender your liberties. But before you do, check today’s newspaper, listen to current TV and radio reports, then decide if the mentality, competence, common sense, and morality of public officials exceeds that of your own.


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