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District takes another look at contraceptives

The Tigard-Tualatin School District announced Friday that it will hold two community meetings to discuss whether contraceptives should be handed out at the health clinic at Tigard High School.

The School-Based Health Center has provided reproductive health services since it opened in 2008, said district spokeswoman Susan Stark Haydon, but has not dispensed contraceptives.

District officials hope to meet with members of the public at two listening sessions on Saturday, Jan. 21, and Thursday, Jan. 26.

There, parents and community members will be able to share their thoughts on whether contraceptives should be available at the clinic.

'It strikes me that if we are going to have a health center in the school that it should provide as many medical functions as possible,' said School Board member Jill Zurschmeide. 'Is this a medical function that the community wants us to provide? Since this is not a question we have asked before, it's a question we should ask now.'

The School-Based Health Center on Tigard High School's campus is open to all district staff and students. Fees are on a sliding pay scale and private insurance or the Oregon Health Plan are accepted.

The clinic performs a variety of services, including diagnosing and treating minor illnesses and infections, offering health screenings, immunizations, physical examinations, mental health assessments and counseling and family support and providing substance abuse assessments.

When the clinic opened four years ago the district opted not to supply contraceptives, but said it would revisit the matter at a later time, Stark Haydon said.

'It's time,' Zurschmeide said. 'We need to have that conversation.'

The community meetings will help the School-Based Health Center's operations committee come to a recommendation for the school board.

'It is entirely likely that we will do absolutely nothing,' Zurschmeide said, 'and it is entirely likely that we could change things.'

Which contraceptives could be offered is also up for negotiation, Zurschmeide said.

The school board member said that the issue will likely be a contentious one with parents and community members because of the personal nature of the subject.

'You're talking about kids and pregnancy and sex, and those are all hugely personal and emotional topics. I don't think any parent wants to face the reality that their 14 year old is having sex. It's terrifying,' Zurschmeide said.

One of three such health clinics in Washington County, the clinic is a self-supporting organization, Stark Haydon said, and is not on the district's yearly budget.

The clinic does receive some state funding and from the county to assist with its mental health program.

As part of its certification process, the health center currently provides reproductive health services including pregnancy tests and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

According to the most recent data available, Washington County recorded a total of 274 teen pregnancies in the Tigard and Tualatin areas between 2007 and 2009.

About half of all eighth-graders in Washington County reported being sexually active in 2007 and 2008, the county reported. During that same period 74 percent of 11th graders reported being sexually active.

'We have a health center where we can test someone for STDs, but if (the test) comes back positive, we can't do anything to keep a kid from getting reinfected,' Zurschmeide said. 'There is a gap between…what we do and the follow through. It's a hugely emotional issue for a lot of parents. I get it, I'm a parent, it's emotional for me too.'

In addition to the two listening sessions, the district is seeking input from community members through an online survey, located at ttsd.k12.or.us under 'fast links.'



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