June 23, 2008 -- There is no evidence that 17 girls at a Massachusetts high school joined a "pact" before they became pregnant, the mayor of Gloucester, Mass, said today, blaming the increased number of teen mothers on a lack of health education funding and the "glamorization of pregnancy" in the media.
"I am not able to confirm the existence of a pact," Mayor Carolyn Kirk said. "Any planned blood oath to become pregnant — there is no evidence."
Time magazine last week reported a rumor, given credence in an interview with Gloucester High School principal Joseph Sullivan, that the girls, all under 16 years old, promised each other to become pregnant and raise their children together.
"Beyond the statement of the principal, we have no evidence there was a pact," the mayor said. "The principal could not remember who told him that."
She said none of the school's health workers who deal with the girls on a daily basis had heard any mention of a pact. Instead, she attributed the pregnancies to a lack of funding for health education because of increased spending needed to meet federally mandated standards known as No Child Left Behind.
She also blamed the media's "glamorization of pregnancy" and "movies that depicted teen pregnancy as something to be desired."
She mentioned by name Jamie Lynn Spears, the 17-year-old sister of pop singer Britney Spears, who delivered a baby this weekend, and alluded to the recent hit film "Juno," a comedy about a teenager who becomes pregnant.
According to the principal quoted in the Time article, one girl had sex with a 24-year-old homeless man.
Kirk would not comment on the fathers of the girls, saying only that under Massachusetts law, school officials would be required to report suspicions of statutory rape.
The mayor and school officials said the girls may have made an agreement to support each other after becoming pregnant, but that was not the same as creating a premeditated "pact" to become pregnant.
Kirk said that current district policy did not permit the distribution of contraceptives, but the policy was under review.
Gloucester, a socially conservative fishing town about 30 miles north of Boston, has struggled with teen pregnancy for years, though on average only four girls a year typically became pregnant at the 1,200-student high school.
In May, two officials at the high school health center resigned to protest the local hospital's refusal to distribute contraceptives without parental consent.