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March 28, 2014

School health clinic won't offer condoms

PEABODY — While the School Committee strongly supports opening a student-based health center at Peabody High to offer convenient medical care to students, board members did make sure Tuesday night to rule out distributing condoms to students as one of those services.

“It may not be my personal choice, but the feedback that I’ve been getting is to not pass out condoms,” said Ed Charest after introducing a motion to that effect. Only Dave McGeney voted against the motion but didn’t elaborate further at the time. Brandi Carpenter was absent.

Mayor Ted Bettencourt confirmed it was an optional issue for the committee to decide and would not affect project funding or approval.

McGeney, in a later interview, said his vote doesn’t necessarily reflect his views on the issue and whether condoms should be freely distributed to students.

“My position on it is that I wasn’t in favor of the motion. People can read into that what they like,” he said, explaining that if the motion failed, it simply meant no action would be taken either way.

“It’s probably the first question people ask about having a healthcare facility at the high school,” McGeney said. He’s heard from constituents on the matter and describes it as a “very emotional” and “sensitive” issue for many people.

Contraceptives are a major component to consider in offering full health care services to teens, McGeney said, and he expects the School Committee will revisit the issue in the future.

Charest, in an interview yesterday, said he’s heard concerns from many constituents now and in years past that condoms would be “passed out like lollipops” at a student health center. “It’s the first thing they think of.”

“It was a sensitive issue for enough people that we would not do that,” he said, adding that condoms are easily accessible to students via pharmacies and supermarkets.

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