Schenectady High School in New York came under fire earlier this month when its school assembly featured Planned Parenthood as one of the sponsors and participants in a teen pregnancy prevention program.
While headlines made it look like it was a one-time occurrence and an oversight on the part of a school superintendent, the school district’s ties with Planned Parenthood go much deeper than the lone incident in mid-November.
The local newspaper, the Daily Gazette, reported in mid-November that parent Vivian Parsons complained to the school board that she and other parents should have been informed about Planned Parenthood’s partnership with the school to present at a freshman assembly on teen pregnancy prevention. Parsons grew up in Schenectady and said the connection with Planned Parenthood was too personal for her. As a pregnant teenager, her daughter’s father encouraged her to abort:
Knowing that Planned Parenthood would have provided an abortion discredits that organization’s ability to offer education services to her child, Parsons said.
“They would have killed her for $250 and moved on,” Parsons said in an interview. “How can the people who would not have hesitated in ending her life… turn around and be the ones who quote-unquote teach my daughter to make life choices?”
She added, “I have a right to know if this kind of stuff will be presented to my daughter,” Parsons told the school board. “Not every parent is OK with an association with Planned Parenthood….” And that’s why Parsons told the school board she felt her parental rights were dismissed since she was never given the opportunity to opt her daughter out of attendance.
Schenectady City School District Superintendent Laurence (Larry) T. Spring, admitted that parents should have been notified. The Gazette reports:
Spring, after the school board meeting, said he “was under the impression” that parents were to be notified of the event and given a chance to opt-out for their kids, similar to how the district handles certain aspects of sex education taught during health classes.
“(In health classes), parents are aware that is going on, and they can say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, I want to handle that differently for my child,’” Spring said after the meeting.
But a district spokeswoman, Karen Corona, said that not informing the parents was intentional “because the content or material within the presentation is not considered inappropriate.” Corona apparently did not comment on the district’s method of determining the appropriateness of sexuality instruction for its freshman class. Planned Parenthood doesn’t have a good track record of appropriateness with teens:
But this assembly is not the school district’s only connection to the abortion giant. Sex education and reproductive health care go hand-in-hand in Schenectady City School District, both with Planned Parenthood and with another health care partner.
Boys and girls programs sponsored in part by Planned Parenthood
At the same time the school board was hearing Parsons’ complaint (the week of November 13), Schenectady seventh graders were spending the day with Planned Parenthood and other school district partners, for special boys and girls outings, meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, at the upscale Glen Sanders Mansion in nearby Scotia, where they receive food and other perks, amidst Planned Parenthood’s lessons on ‘healthy relationships.’ The events are marketed as special days for the students. A Daily Gazette article from the week of both events offers more details:
The session focused on healthy relationships, inculcating the boys with lessons just as they start out in the dating game… The training, which reached dozens of seventh-graders during the two conference days, is part of an ongoing partnership between the Schenectady City School District and the local Planned Parenthood organization.
At the girls’ event, the paper reports that in one activity, 2009 Schenectady graduate Hemavattie Ramtahal led a session asking the seventh graders to think about what sort of person they wanted to have a relationship with. Assisting Ramtahal were two Schenectady High School seniors.
They were “part of Planned Parenthood’s Teens Helping Teens program, which trains teens as early as freshman year of high school in healthy sex and relationship programs.”
The story does not disclose whether parents understood their seventh graders were receiving relationship advice from the nation’s number one abortion provider when they consented to let their 12-year-olds to participate.
Perhaps more disturbing, however, than the one day event each year, is that, according to the Gazette:
Planned Parenthood educators hold regular office hours at the high school and also assist in district health classes as part of curriculums approved by the state Department of Health. They also help organize assemblies that target teenage pregnancy prevention and other education programs.
Planned Parenthood staff reach an estimated 350 students in health classes and 600 students in the school office throughout the year, said Emma Corbett, a local Planned Parenthood spokeswoman.
Hometown Health Centers at School
The school district also has school-based health centers — Hometown Health Centers are a local clinic in the region –which, in addition to providing much-needed health care, such as basic medical care for students without insurance, provide things like contraception and STD testing, without parents’ knowledge. Those services are available in Schenectady’s schools thanks to Superintendent Spring, who “spearheaded the effort that brought two school-based Hometown Health Centers into Schenectady schools in 2016, which offers a full range of health services to students. The school-based centers are the first in Schenectady County.”
Parents must sign a consent form for services, which most would be inclined to do since the medical services are free, even without a copay for those insured. Once the form is signed, doctor-patient confidentiality comes into play. The parent consent form states, “The student’s health center record will be maintained as a confidential medical record; it is not a school record. I also understand that confidentiality will be observed between school staff and the students using the SBHC.”
It is, however, important to note that not all health services in New York state require parental consent to treat minors, as the Frequently Asked Questions sheet for parents notes:
School district officials say they will encourage students to discuss their treatment with their parents, but that may be little comfort to parents like Parsons, who don’t want the school district interfering with their children’s sexual education and health decisions, regardless of state or school district rules.
Parsons’ complaint reveals Planned Parenthood’s web of services in Schenectady
When Parsons lodged her complaint to the school board this month, she acknowledged that the school was trying to deal with, as the Gazette reports, “ ‘an epidemic of babies having babies,’ but she felt strongly she didn’t want her daughter participating in an event involving Planned Parenthood….”
While Parsons thought she was complaining about one assembly, Planned Parenthood actually has its hands in the activities of students from seventh through twelfth grade, at minimum. One has to wonder whether these students are learning anything about human development from fertilization, or if they’re simply learning about types of birth control and where to get it…
A Planned Parenthood spokesperson stated, “Parents are the first teachers, the first source of information for their children, and it’s up to them to take the lead on when their kids are ready to have these types of conversations,” but the superintendent said that, since kids “are going to ask questions,” it would be better to “ask Planned Parenthood… than the kid sitting… at the lunch table.”
Parsons vehemently disagrees with the superintendent; nonetheless, Spring has been honored as a pioneer by this district and the community, and was honored this past summer by Hometown Health Centers at its 45th anniversary celebration.
Spring’s career goal is to “ensure that race, economics and disability are never predictors of student achievement,” and making sure that “educators are culturally responsive in order to meet the needs of a diverse student population… [and]… for the disadvantaged and those living in poverty.” Spring was honored by the New York Civil Liberties Union for his work at ensuring students in poverty receive the services and justice they need.
Parents who don’t thoroughly investigate before signing consent forms in Schenectady might find strangers probing deeply into students’ minds, inculcating a sexual education that parents never intended their children to have.