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Springfield www.TheReminder.com School Committee approves controversial condom policy


By G. Michael Dobbs news@thereminder.com


SPRINGFIELD – After several efforts to amend the policy that would allow the establishment of a program to distribute condoms to Springfield school children as young as the age of 12, the Springfield School Committee voted to approve the program. School Committee members


Antonette Pepe, Norman Roldan, and Peter Murphy did not vote in favor of the measure. Of the three, Murphy was the most adamant in his opposition. “As the parent of 9 year-old twins, I think this sends a bad message,” Murphy said. “It’s somewhat horrifying to me.” Murphy contended there was no data to show that in other communities where such a program


existed that school achievement rates improved or pregnancy rates lowered.


He noted that, according to


information supplied to the School Committee, there are about 81 students who are now pregnant out of the 27,000 students in the district.


Murphy suggested the policy be changed so parents had to “opt into” the program, rather than “opt out” of it. His motion failed. He believed that distributing condoms to 16 year-old students – the age of consent in Massachusetts – was more appropriate. Both Pepe and Roldan made


motions that failed that would have started the program in high school rather than in middle school. While in favor of the program, Pepe noted the School Committee members had a responsibility to listen to the


many parents who had contacted them with concerns. Mayor Domenic Sarno said


that when he took office he was told, “not to touch this issue with a 10-foot pole.”


“Should this come from the home, come from the church?” he asked. “Yes, it should.” Sarno said the policy is “all


about keeping children in school.” The mayor maintained that


preventing unwanted pregnancies was a step in preventing poverty and would increase graduation rates.


According to information supplied before the meeting by Dr. Sarah Perez McAdoo, executive director of Youth Empowerment Adolescent Health Network, Springfield has the fourth highest teen birth rate in the state. In 2010, 13 percent of Hispanic teen girls


and 6 percent of African American teen girls in the city gave birth. She also reported that in 2010, 28 percent of seventh graders reported having sexual intercourse, up from 25 percent in 2006. 51 percent of the city’s ninth graders reported they had had sexual intercourse and of that group 56 percent reported they did not use any form of birth control. When asked by Pepe about the


city’s liability if a birth should occur from a failed condom distributed by school nurses, the School Committee’s legal council, Melinda Phelps, said the city should be protected as the student receiving the condom would go through an educational program detailing abstinence as an alternative, health risks and safe and effective use, among other topics. The school nurses will be keeping track of each


condom distributed by recording lot numbers and expiration dates. These steps would limit the


city’s liability, she said. School Committee Vice Chair Christopher Collins noted his displeasure after the final vote that School Superintendent Dr. Alan Ingram was not present for the meeting.


Although many of the members of the public were clearly in favor of the policy, one resident was not. Matthew Ferri, who has three children in the public schools, had argued against the policy as it was proposed and had addressed multiple concerns in a letter to the School Committee. He did not believe what he had read of the policy was “comprehensive.” “This is a very sad day for the


Springfield public school system,” Ferri said after the meeting.


CRWRC volunteers to canvas tornado-stricken neighborhoods


SPRINGFIELD – The Springfield Community Together Long Term Recovery Group (SCT-LTRG) announced volunteers from the Christian Reformed Worldwide Relief Committee (CRWRC) will canvass the city’s tornado-stricken neighborhoods from April 11 to 19, to collect information about survivors’ unmet needs. SCT-LTRG will host the


CRWRC’s Disaster Response Services volunteers, known as the ‘Green Shirts’ for their attire. Information collected by the


CRWRC will help create a comprehensive needs assessment, which will assist Springfield Community Together as they work to address unmet tornado related needs, such as housing, debris clean up, and transportation. CRWRC volunteers will be


going door-to-door in the East Forest Park neighborhood from April 11 to 14, and in the Maple/High/Six Corners and South End neighborhoods from April 14 to 19. Door-to-door visits will begin at 10 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. daily.


Walk-in centers are also


available for residents to talk to CRWRC volunteers.


The Christ Presbyterian


Church walk-in center at 1597 Allen St. will be open April 12 to 14 from 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The Christ Church Cathedral


walk-in center at 37 Chestnut St. will be open April 16 and 17 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tornado survivors seeking immediate assistance with unmet needs should contact Richard Wright, Springfield Community


Together’s case manager, at 296- 1052.


“We encourage residents to


talk to CRWRC volunteers about their needs and experiences. All information will be kept confidential,” Steven Abdow, a member of Springfield Community Together’s Board of Directors, said. “This information will help us reach out to survivors, some of whom may not have sought assistance before. And a full accounting of construction and clean-up needs will help


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Springfield Community Together find the funding and resources to best address unmet needs,” he added.


Springfield Community


Together is the designated long- term recovery group for Springfield. It is comprised of representatives from 15 local professional, faith-based and community organizations. The organizations include but not limited to: American Red Cross;


See VOLUNTEERS on page 19


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katelyn@ TheReminder.com


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