Parents, School Board Veto Controversial Health Card

Information On Sex Shouldn't Be Distributed, They Argue

June 16, 1991|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — Urged by a vocal group of parents, the Board of Education voted against distributing in high schools a "teen health card" informing students that free condoms are available and that parental permission is not required to receive certain services.

The school board voted, 3-2, Wednesday to direct educators to develop an information card rather than use the one created by the county Health Department.

The Health Department card, which lists phone numbers for birth control, pregnancy, crisis intervention and counseling services, was distributed by an agency worker to a Liberty High School health class in April. The card had not been approved formally by the Family Life and Human Development Committee, which advises the school board.

Eight parents lodged emotional objections to the wallet-sized card Wednesday, citing passages that say "parental permission is not requiredfor birth control or V.D. (venereal disease) services" and "3 for free -- free condoms available on walk-in basis."

Under state law, minors do not require parental permission to obtain those services.

The card is supported by the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy and the Maryland State Department of Education.

The parents said the information on the card could diminish the advisory role of parents, promote teen-age promiscuity, and conflict with the Board of Education's policy of promoting abstinence in student relations.

"It's the parents' job to teach sex education," said Lynn Negley, of Pleasant Valley, the father of three Westminster elementary and middle school students. "You're taking the parents' duties right out the front door."

The card is consistent with school curriculum approved by educators, said Gary Dunkleberger, director of curriculum and staffdevelopment.

"We do advocate that abstinence is the best choice,"he said. "But we know that not all students will make that choice. Then, we feel part of our job is to present them with all the options."

Health officials said the card is intended to provide the most complete range of options possible.

"Some kids won't come because they think they have to tell their parent," said Kathleen M. McNeave, adolescent case coordinator. "If they know, they can come and get birth control instead of getting pregnant."

Jeanne Martin, a Marriottsville resident, said the card doesn't reflect values she expects to be taught in Carroll schools.

"You say abstinence is what is taught, but yet the backbone to stand behind that statement appears to be missing," she said.

New Windsor resident Priscilla Pickett, quoting from the Bible, told the board that education administrators helpedguide her out of a troubled youth.

"I fear for our youth now," she said. "I don't see the same in schools."

No parents supported retaining the controversial information.

School board member Cheryl A. McFalls supported the parents, saying that the information in question would "usurp parental authority." Members Anne Ballard and Joseph Mish voted with McFalls to scrap the Health Department's card.

School board president John D. Myers Jr. and member Carolyn L. Scott voted against McFalls' motion to permanently strike the controversial information.

They agreed the information could be important to students who need the services but feel unable to consult with parents.

"My concern is to serve all the children. Too many don't have whatyou're giving your children," said Scott to the parents.

Myers said he would "rather have all the parents angry at me except one" if keeping the information on the card prevented one student from gettingAIDS.

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