Backseat parenting

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School districts have been forced to play mommy and daddy to children as if they were a daycare center for many kids. However, if a school district perceives a major problem, then it should work to solve the problem without usurping or compromising the parents’ role and responsibility for their children.

Public middle schools in Maine have given us another example of the state arbitrarily inserting itself between a child and parent with a blanket policy weakening parents’ roles as legal guardians of their own children.

According to an Oct. 19 Associated Press report, parents and the Bishop of Maine were shocked to hear school officials have allowed King Middle School in Portland to make a full range of contraception available to middle-school students through the school’s health clinic. King Middle School is the first in Maine to offer contraceptives to students as young as 11 years old.

Parents of middle-school students are stuck with an all-or-nothing decision for their children – they can either grant their child access to all the school health clinic’s services, which now include contraception, or refuse to sign and prevent the child from using any of the health services offered by the clinic.

Other states – like Maryland – already have had this system in their public schools for years, and many purport offering birth control in middle schools actually has led to a decline in unwanted pregnancies over a decade.

The problem these policies are attempting to address is quite clear – the prevention of unwanted pregnancies in a population arguably still defined as children. While there is questionable data about just how much of a problem this really is, the debate the school’s policy is generating is likely to avoid the distinctions needed to separate the two key questions.

First, there is the moral question, which most are likely to focus on, as to whether middle-school children should be having sex at all.

The other key question is whether any school or other third party should be compromising parents’ responsibilities by forcing them to choose between their moral values and their children’s health with an all-or-nothing policy.

Since parents are held legally responsible for their children in so many ways until they turn 18 years old, the last thing the school – or the power of the state in any form – should be doing is driving yet another wedge of reproductive secrecy between the parent and child.

Consider an example when parents – despite a personal preference that their child is not given birth control – consent so the child has access to the school’s health clinic. What happens when their daughter, who took advantage of the birth control, ends up pregnant.

Yes, even the best birth control is not fool-proof. It is still possible to get pregnant. Will the school take financial responsibility for delivering and raising a child born to an 11-, 12- or 13-year-old? I bet the parents won’t find the school health clinic helpful at that point.

Portland middle schools should give parents a new option – the ability to use specific medications and prescriptions for their children.

Those parents who favor providing birth control to their own children are perfectly free to do so with or without the school’s assistance.

Christina Forsberg is a senior in economics and English literature. Please send comments to opinion@spub.ksu.edu.

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