Forest Grove School Board passes contraceptive vote
The Forest Grove School Board voted 4-1 to approve a policy change that will allow for nurse practitioners to prescribe contraceptive services to students at the school-based health center, should they request it.
On Monday, April 23, longtime board member Fred Marble was the sole member in opposition of the vote, stating he had made a promise to the community eight years ago when the topic was previously discussed.
While the Forest Grove School Board had discussed the topic in the past, it had never formally voted on it until Monday night.
"I made a commitment too," said board member Valyrie Ingram. "I committed to represent my community and I've heard from a lot of people tonight, and I heard from a lot of people two weeks ago, and I think it's obvious what the majority of our community wants us to do."
The Forest Grove School Board offered an opportunity for community input at its meeting on Monday, April 9, as well as Monday, April 23, before voting on the matter.
"I think it fair to acknowledge the unease this topic evokes for some. As a parent, I acknowledge this tension," said Larissa Whalen-Garfias, a physician assistant at Virgina Garcia Memorial Center who will begin working at the SBHC on June 1 of this year. "However, pretending that teen pregnancy is not a problem in our community has only led to the current epidemic."
Other community members at this week's meeting agreed, stating that with Forest Grove's high number of teen pregnancies, the district would benefit greatly from access to contraceptives.
"Although this is something that would help everyone, it can't be denied that the lack of this resource disproportionately affects young people of color and young people who live in poverty," said Brenda Zook Friesen, a mother of two kids in the district and representative of Standing Up for Racial Justice in Forest Grove. "We believe this is an issue of access and equity."
Between the two hearings, only one community member spoke out in opposition of the policy change.
"It's been proven that the younger the age you teach them, the younger they are going to try to be experimental," said lifelong Forest Grove resident Shirley Evers. "I believe that if you're going to go ahead and vote to have this, then you better have another plan in search so that you can show that it's okay to say no to sex, that there's chastity, and that there's other ways of doing things than just having condoms and handing those out. I really believe this topic should be more publicly informed."
Forest Grove is the final of six school districts with a school-based health center to approve this policy change in Washington and Yamhill counties. Others are the Hillsboro, Beaverton, Century, Tigard-Tualatin and Willamina school districts.
Under Oregon law, children as young as 15 can seek medical care without parental permission and students of any age are able to seek contraceptive services without parental approval.
Forest Grove's school-based health center is located beside Forest Grove High School at 1715 Nichols Lane and is open to all community members up to the age of 21 in the Forest Grove, Banks and Gaston school districts.
By Olivia Singer
Reporter, Forest Grove News-Times and Hillsboro Tribune
Follow Olivia at @oliviasingerr
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