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Board Should Approve School Clinic Study

July 06, 1986

Trustees of the San Diego city schools face one of their toughest decisions of the year Tuesday when they decide whether to proceed with a study on establishing a school-based health clinic.

A 30-member task force has endorsed the concept of the school clinic and has asked to continue working on what services such a facility would offer. The clinic proposal, while unavoidably controversial, touches areas of vital importance to students, and the study of it should go on.

Overshadowing all the other legitimate reasons for establishing a pilot clinic--such as the finding that more than half the high school students who are referred for medical treatment don't receive it--is the issue of providing birth control counseling and contraceptives. To some, this is viewed as a challenge to the family's prerogative and responsibility to set religious and ethical standards for their children. While these viewpoints, expressed by the Catholic Church and by many parents, must be respected, they are wrong.

The existence of a safe place where young people can go for all kinds of information and health needs is a far cry from a siren luring kids into otherwise-unimagined sexual conduct. The family will always be the place where life's behavioral benchmarks and boundaries are learned. Teen-agers who have been taught to refrain from sexual activity are not suddenly going to engage in it just because condoms are available at a clinic--as well as in drugstores, various men's rooms and from friends.

But while the boys and girls whose parents, by their teaching and by their example, have instilled in their youngsters proper attitudes about sex, hygiene and health in general may not be much affected by the availability of a clinic, those who come from other types of backgrounds will.

Each year, more than 1,000 girls between the ages of 13 and 17 give birth in San Diego County. No one knows how many others have abortions; no one knows how many teen-agers contract sexually transmitted diseases, but it is well into the thousands. To ignore the magnitude of the problem is to imitate an ostrich.

No one would be forced to use the health clinic. Parents who oppose it would always have the option to instruct their children not to go there. But they should not be allowed to kill this proposal that would be of tremendous benefit for others who happen to need it very badly. On Tuesday, the school board should listen not only to the voices of opposition but also to the sounds of the school district-sponsored nursery where the children of children are kept--and to the sighs of the teen-age mothers.

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