June 14, 2008

Board Requests Report on Teen Pregnancy



Report: PVHS principal doesn't think pregnancy is an issue at Pojoaque

The Pojoaque Valley School Board took tentative steps last week toward determining the extent and detrimental effects of teenage pregnancy at the high school.

Board member Lilliemae Ortiz requested that school nurse Diana Quintana report back to the board on the effects of pregnancy on students' academic performance. J. David Ortiz questioned whether a possible rise in pregnancies could be resulting from the district's restrictions on reproductive health services.

The move came amid discussion of the district's policy of prohibiting any such services at the school-based student health center, operated by Las Clinicas del Norte.

Several board members, including Margaret Tapia, questioned the policy of refusing to offer students information and guidance on such matters as teen pregnancy, risks of sexually transmitted disease and family planning.

"Whether we like it or not, our young men and women are young men and women and have reproductive parts," Tapia said. She added that teenage girls should be made aware of health issues like cervical cancer and breast cancer, topics of discussion now prohibited at the health center.

She said the diseases can affect women of any age, and teens at the school should be advised of the benefits of cervical and breast exams.

Tapia said she "knew too many young women who have had pre- cancerous incidents."

The pregnancy issue arose when Lilliemae Ortiz noted that the number of teenage pregnancies at the high school was a hot topic at several post-graduation parties and events she had attended.

Member Paula Sanchez Roybal said she was torn by the issue because "there are many aspects of reproductive care that (are) just good wellness information."

School board president Reuben Roybal steadfastly defended restrictions on health-center attention to any matter dealing with reproduction or sex-related issues, insisting that such matters should be addressed at home by parents and not by school officials or workers at public facilities.

Roybal said that, as long as he had any say about it, "school property will never be used for reproductive services."

The center's medical director for Las Clinicas, Susan Dunn, a nurse-practitioner, noted that one of the clinic's health-care workers recently resigned over the issue, saying that as a health worker she was extremely uncomfortable with the district's restrictions on care.

Dunn also said it was never the clinic's intention to have students "slip in the back door" to discuss reproductive issues during time devoted to the general public. "Students would not be offered reproductive health services" at any time, she said.

All five board members recently voted to keep the restrictions in place, but the issue came up again when Dunn informed the board that Las Clinicas had decided not to promote a planned expansion of health services to the community at large after the board refused to lift the restriction for the clinic's summer operations for adults out of the high school.

After a story on the matter appeared in The New Mexican last Wednesday, Superintendent Toni Nolan Trujillo asked Dunn to reappear before the board for further discussions of the district's policies and intentions and for "greater clarity."

In a recent interview, Pojoaque Valley High School Principal Kevin Hubka said that compared to other larger schools he has worked at, "I don't think (pregnancy) is a huge issue at Pojoaque."

Hubka said teachers and counselors had been working with a couple of pregnant students in the just-concluded school year "to at least keep them in school and up on their studies."

Contact Dennis Carroll at [email protected]

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