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Family Planning Clinic Departs Elementary School Amid Criticism : Burbank: The facility was to serve poor teen-agers. An opponent cites "strict, values-oriented community."

June 05, 1993|ED BOND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Citing strong opposition, a San Fernando Valley clinic pulled out of a fledgling community outreach center Friday that had planned to offer birth-control counseling and gynecological services after school hours at a Burbank elementary school.

"No one who needed the help got it, which is really a shame," said Diane Chamberlain, associate director of the Valley Community Clinic, the North Hollywood-based group that set up the satellite clinic at McKinley Elementary School two weeks ago.

The abrupt departure followed a rancorous late-night meeting Thursday during which members of the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education and the public criticized the proposed services and threatened to seek revocation of the center's permit.

"It's the desire of this community not to have these kinds of things happen on school grounds," board member Denise Lioy Wilcox said Friday. "They do not want condoms passed out there. This is a very strict, values-oriented community."

The clinic was part of the new McKinley Multi-Service Center set up in April by the Burbank Corp. for Youth to serve poor neighborhood families. The center offers programs on gang intervention, amnesty and citizenship issues and landlord-tenant law.

The clinic was open Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m. when school was out of session, but it had yet to conduct any counseling or exams.

While Wilcox agreed with clinic advocates that sex education and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy are needed in Burbank, she said that performing gynecological exams in an elementary school nurse's office was improper.

"How do I know if they haven't cleaned up properly after completing a gynecological exam?" Wilcox asked. She also objected to AIDS testing on the site, but a clinic official said that was not planned.

"We do not do abortion counseling. We're a family planning clinic," Chamberlain said. "Proper family planning reduces the number of abortions. What we do is provide information on all options."

Chamberlain said the clinic's goals are first to educate the teen-agers that abstinence is the only foolproof means of protection. Sex education usually delays a teen-ager's sexual activity, she added.

But the clinic would provide condoms and birth control "as deemed medically appropriate by a nurse practitioner," she said.

The district offers sex education programs to seventh- and 10th-graders, does not provide birth-control devices to students and is considering a proposal to start a state-mandated AIDS curriculum.

On Thursday night, the board asked Supt. Arthur Pierce, who also serves on the board of the Burbank Corp. for Youth, to request that the agency refrain from offering the health services. On Friday, clinic operators decided to withdraw.

Pierce said Friday that he "did not know what was planned for the clinic," adding that he had missed recent meetings of the board.

"I don't see it as a setback for the center as a whole because if it was going to generate really negative vibes, then that would not have been good for the center," said Audrey Hanson, a former school board member and chairwoman of the Burbank Corp. for Youth. "I see it more as a loss for teen-agers in Burbank," she said.

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