DENVER" A task force's recommendation that clinics in Denver Public Schools high schools be allowed to distribute condoms and oral contraceptives to students has the support of some parents and teachers, one school principal said.
A 43 member task force composed of medical, state, city and parents examined services at health clinics in 12 city schools and released several recommendations this week that included birth control.
"We're in the process of talking about the pros and cons," said Jeannie Peppel, principal at John F. Kennedy High School. "It's really coming from the parents and from the school community."
The Denver Archdiocese opposes the recommendation and urged parents to challenge it, said spokeswoman Jeanette DeMelo.
"To offer birth control would facilitate an atmosphere of sexual license among students," she said.
Others, including Lolita Hanks of Colorado Right to Life, agree.
"That is not the purview of the schools," said Hanks. "It will encourage more sexual activity."
The birth rate for Denver teens aged 15 to 17 is 56.5 births per 1,000, more than twice that of Colorado as a whole, according to the state's Department of Public Health and Environment.
Contraceptives in school recently came to the forefront with reports of girls as young as 11 receiving contraceptives at a middle school in Portland, Maine. A recall effort has been launched against the school board and a district attorney warned that health professionals were illegally failing to report underage sex.
Adams 14 School District, which encompasses Commerce City, in 1989 became one of the first districts in the nation to hand out condoms in high schools.
Each student who receives a condom in the Adams district also receives a pamphlet or a talk about abstinence, district spokesman John Albright said.
"Someone speaks to them," Albright said, "and says, "We are going to give you these condoms, but you should know the only surefire way to prevent HIV transmission and AIDS is through abstinence."
Denver Public Schools currently refers students who request contraceptives to Denver Health's community clinics, but officials say many don't follow up.
Destiny Baca, a junior at Denver's North High School and a nurse's aide in the school's clinic, supports the idea of contraceptives at high schools.
"It's better than them having babies," said Baca, 17. "A lot of girls in this school are pregnant or they have kids already."
DPS school board member Michelle Moss, a member of the task force, said she didn't know when the board might vote on the recommendations.