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School based health center will not offer contraceptives

About 600 people weighed in, majority said no to condoms

Condoms and birth control will not be offered at the Tigard-Tualatin School District's health center at Tigard High School.

The School Board decided Monday not to change its policy, which would have allowed nurse practitioners at the district's School Based Health Center to write prescriptions for birth control or dispense condoms to students who request them.

The School Based Health Center opened in 2008. It provides a variety of services, including diagnosing and treating minor illnesses and infections, offering health screenings, immunizations, physical examinations, mental health assessments, counseling and family support and providing substance abuse assessments.

Contraceptives were not offered when the clinic first opened, with the promise that the issue would be revisited later.

The clinic's advisory board met with the community in two community meetings and held an online survey asking for feedback.

In the end, after collecting public feedback for two months, the advisory committee could not reach a consensus on the issue or make a recommendation to the School Board.

With no action taken, the clinic will not offer contraceptives. However, the district could consider the policy again.

'We had some spirited discussion, in which there was strong disagreement,' advisory board member Jeff Kallevig told the School Board on Monday. 'In the end, the way in which the dialogue and discussion happened was so respectful and so engaging, with care for one another, it was clear that we could not come to a conclusion.'

'In a perfect world, options aren't necessary'

About 60 people attended the two community meetings, and about 540 people completed the online survey.

About two-thirds of those who participated in the meetings and about 55 percent who took the survey opposed distributing contraceptives at the health center.

Opponents said distributing contraceptives was morally wrong, posed health risks to students and contradicted the district's policy of abstinence, which is taught in sex education classes.

Few students gave their input, with only two students attending the community meetings and 32 who completed the online poll. All of them supported the distribution of contraceptives.

Robin Gensler, a proponent of contraceptive distribution and a member of the health center's advisory board, said she hoped the School Board would take up the issue.

'In a perfect world, options aren't necessary,' Gensler said. 'But in reality, our children need to understand that options are critical. The reason why we established the health center is the same reason why we should offer these additional services: To keep kids healthy, in school and ready to learn.'

Board Chairwoman Maureen Wolf said the issue likely wouldn't come up again anytime soon.

'At this point in time and in the foreseeable future, my recommendation would be that the School Based Health Center continue with its existing services and not make contraceptives available,' she said.

Canby said no in October

If approved, Tigard-Tualatin would have become the first school health center to offer contraceptives in Washington County.

All the high school health centers in Portland Public Schools provide contraceptives, as does the Willamina High School health center in Yamhill County. Milwaukie High School health center also will when it opens in June.

In October, the Canby School District opted not to allow contraceptives at its health center at Canby High School.

The Tigard-Tualatin health center does offer reproductive health exams, pregnancy and HIV tests and counseling and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, which are requirements for all state school-based health centers.

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 high school juniors reported being sexually active.

The center currently refers students to other clinics for birth control prescriptions.




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