If you wanted to make the Maine Legislature look good, you’d compare it to the Portland School Committee. Legislators may be incompetent boobs, you’d say, but at least they aren’t brain dead.
If you wanted to make the Portland School Committee look good, you’d compare it to the mob criticizing it for its recent decision to make birth control available to middle school kids. Committee members may be brain dead, you’d say, but at least they aren’t mean-spirited weirdos.
If you wanted to make the School Committee’s critics look good, you’d compare them to ... jeez, I dunno ... the government of Myanmar, maybe. Or something really foul, like prime-time programming on MY TV.
A reasonable person could be excused for believing that the elected overseers of Portland’s educational system have set new standards for governmental incompetence. They’ve neglected their duty to monitor the school district’s finances, resulting in budget deficits. And they’ve failed to develop a sensible plan to prevent teen pregnancies by making reproductive health services more available or to lay the political groundwork for its public acceptance.
They deserve to be thrown out of office.
What they don’t deserve is to become the whipping boys and girls for a bunch of anti-sex extremists hoping to use this controversy to fulfill their fantasies of finally achieving political potency.
On October 17, with little notice, the School Committee voted 7-2 to make birth control available to students who use the public health center at King Middle School. While parental permission will be needed for kids to be treated at the center, state law prevents the school from notifying mom and pop if their offspring ask the school nurse for a supply of condoms, pills, or patches.
School Committee members should have been prepared for what happened next. Conservative crusaders from across the country condemned Portland for encouraging 11-year-olds to have sex. Even though nobody did that. But, hey, the facts are no fun.
“It communicates to young people that adults have given up on forming young people in virtues like chastity,” announced Richard Malone, the Roman Catholic bishop of Maine.
Malone didn’t mention it, but Catholics aren’t just against birth control for middle schoolers. They’re against it for everyone. The church has a long history of fighting to keep contraception illegal.
The Christian Civic League of Maine stumbled on a state statute that says anyone having sex with somebody under 14 is guilty of gross sexual assault. The league immediately called on the state’s highest law-enforcement official to take action to halt the alleged wave of prurience in Portland’s schools.
“It is beyond comprehension,” announced CCLM official Mike Hein, “that Maine’s Attorney General, Steven Rowe, does not know about this criminal sexual activity in the Portland Middle Schools. His own wife is the head nurse for Portland schools. By her own public admission, Amanda Rowe knows of a number of pregnancies in Portland’s middle schools.”
The Cumberland County district attorney's office has announced it’s handling this issue, so the Rowe references appear politically motivated. It’s unclear if any of the 17 middle-school girls who got pregnant in the last four years were under 14, but all five King students who told public-health nurses they were sexually active in the last 12 months were 14 or 15. So, there may not be much criminal activity to investigate.