By Seth Daniel
Several residents in opposition to the Revere Public Schools’ new contraception policy at the school-based Health Center are collecting signatures and expect to have a question on the November ballot.
Kathy Magno of Revere Street told the Journal that several members of the community – who earlier this year collected 600 letters in opposition to the policy – began collecting signatures last weekend in order to get a question on the ballot in November’s City Election.
“This is just a next step for this,” said Magno. “I hope we get it on the ballot and I’m confident we’ll get the signatures. I don’t know where it ends up, but we’re committed to getting it on the ballot.”
The question, officially, will focus on the process, on how the measure was approved by the School Committee in February.
The question as drafted reads: “Should the School Committee temporarily suspend the distribution of contraception and Plan B (known as the ‘Morning after Pill’) at Revere High School and form an advisory council, that includes parents and others pursuant to the Massachusetts General Laws, to evaluate the health risks and benefits of both contraception and abstinence. Such council shall submit recommendations to the School Committee for consideration prior to their deciding whether to lift the suspension.”
Mayor Tom Ambrosino, who vehemently supports the contraception policy, said he wouldn’t get in the way of the ballot question.
Superintendent of Schools Paul Dakin – who also supports it – said he felt it was getting in the way of parental choice, though he added he hadn’t read the question in particular.
“There is a moral/religious issue, and I might be in agreement with them, but I’m not weighing in that way,” he said. “This is a parent, kid and doctor making this decision together. Why should we interfere in that triangle and tell people we won’t allow it at the high school…I would be speaking against it if it [interferes with a] parent’s decision.”
Last February, in what was considered a very quiet and unannounced vote, the School Committee voted 4-2 to allow Mass General to dispense a full array of birth control services, including the Morning After Pill, at the school-based Health Center. Parents would have to opt in to the service and would have to sign their kids up for the center as well to qualify for the contraceptive services.
Nevertheless, such a controversial issue done without a lot of fanfare sparked outrage in many areas of the community. Conversely, those in favor of the measure said it was absolutely necessary to stop what many believed to be an increase in teen pregnancy rates at Revere High.
Magno said she and a loosely organized group of residents, including Immaculate Conception Priest George Szal, organized a letter campaign and attended several other meetings with the School Committee, none of which seemed to make a difference in the policy.
At the last meeting – a subcommittee meeting – Magno said things got out of hand.
“That meeting got a little bit out of hand, and it was said that this was a Catholic issue as opposed to it being a parental rights issue or a community issue,” said Magno. “It was obvious at that point it wasn’t going anywhere and their minds were made up. The next thing we decided to do was get it on the ballot and get it to the voters.”
Election Commissioner Diane Colella said the group would require signatures from at least 8 percent of the registered voters in Revere by September 4. She said 15 percent of the city’s registered voters would equate to 3,714 people.
Once those signatures are certified, the measure goes to the city clerk, where opponents will have two days (until September 11) to challenge the question.
After that, the measure will go to the School Committee, where members can either accept the question and make the requested changes or allow it to go on the November ballot.