Prompted by a so-called pregnancy pact among a group of high school girls, the Massachusetts school where the drama first unfolded is working on revamping its sex education program, including proposals to allow contraception distribution and to provide in-school day care.
The draft of the policy, which the Gloucester schools released this week, is expected to be discussed tonight in a public meeting at city hall. In addition to in-school child care, the proposed plan includes offering sex education that teaches both abstinence and contraceptive use.
The plan also outlines a wide range of additional options, from banning birth control entirely at the school health clinic, to allowing access to contraception (both birth control pills and condoms), with or without parental approval.
"Right now the policy is no contraception. Tonight we will look at the panel's findings and recommendations and decide are we going to change that? Will it be confidential contraceptive? Will it be parental consent? Tonight's meeting is to clarify some of the concepts that have come across,'' school committee chairman Greg Verga told ABCNews.com.
Verga insisted that tonight's meeting would be to summarize the findings of the blue ribbon panel that was created to look at the issue of teen pregnancy after the issue burst onto the national landscape this spring when 17 teenage students at the high school got pregnant.
The unusually high number of pregnancies prompted assertions from Joseph Sullivan, the Gloucester High School principal, that the girls had entered into a pact to get pregnant and help each other. The mayor and the school superintendent disputed the idea, and Sullivan eventually resigned.
The committee is especially interested in coming up with a plan to address contraceptive distribution at the school, a hot-button issue that exploded at the end of the school year when a clinic doctor, Brian Orr, and a school nurse, Kim Daly, quit in disgust over the School Committee's refusal to let them disseminate birth control without parental consent.
The issue of the on-site school day care center at Gloucester High School will also be on the table tonight for discussion, Verga said.
Last month Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk came under fire by residents after she announced that she wanted to bar the press from attending public forums on the issue that are scheduled for Oct. 1 and 2. That announcement -- coupled with the fact that popular Gloucester High School Principal Joseph Sullivan quit because of a lack of support from Kirk -- led many angry constituents to start a recall petition against the first-term mayor.
Verga said that request has been tabled and that the press will be invited to attend.
"It's a public hearing and it will be open to the public,'' Verga said.
Calls to the mayor's office went unreturned by deadline.
In August, Sullivan announced his resignation with a letter in which he defiantly stood by his public comments about the "pact" and slammed the town's school superintendent for suggesting he had been wrong and couldn't remember who told him about the pact. Sullivan's angry resignation letter accused the mayor of slandering "my reputation, my integrity and my intelligence."