Spare The Rod

In today’s Times we learn that the King Middle School of Portland, Maine, will be doling out birth-control pills to its pupils. Eligible candidates will be as young as 11, and parents will not be notified. If you don’t believe me, take a moment to read the story for yourself.

Readers will, of course, already be aware that I am a reactionary killjoy, a superannuated mossback, a benighted atavism, and am utterly out of step with the brisk accelerando of 21st-century social reform. So it should come as no shock that I think this is breathtaking in its lunacy.

Perhaps I am over-reacting. After all, we learn from Portland School Committee member Robert O’Brien that the program is to be managed with utmost sobriety:

O’Brien, whose district includes King Middle School, said the notion that young children can now easily get birth-control pills is flat wrong.

”They don’t just have a giant punch bowl full of pills,” he said.

It is good to know that this suggestion was voted down, though I imagine the debate was acrimonious.

Also we learn that the distribution will be tightly focused:

No prepubescent children will get it, O’Brien said.

It must have been difficult for them to be sure, in adopting such a pinchingly conservative policy, that no amorous fifth-graders would fall through the cracks, but we applaud their caution. I’m sure they will apply the same tough standards when they kick off the needle-exchange program they’ve been working up for the pre-schoolers.

I am a father myself, with a son and a daughter, both of whom are now young adults. Had my daughter been sexually active at age 11, and taking contraceptive medication, I should have liked to have known; the notion that the Portland School Committee might have been privy to this information, and supplying her with drugs, without mentioning it to her parents seems such an egregious usurpation of all the civilized norms of child-rearing — not to mention the child’s best interests — that I am surprised that it doesn’t require a two-thirds majority of the Senate to sign off on every dose.

But as I say, I’m a little behind the times.

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