LYNN, Mass. — The Lynn School Committee voted unanimously on Thursday night to make contraceptives free and accessible to students across the district.
Condoms, birth control and emergency contraception will be made available soon to students at the district's three high schools - Lynn Classical, Lynn English and Lynn Tech. Parental consent will not be a requirement for students to obtain these contraceptives.
Currently, minors are able to obtain contraceptives at the Lynn Community Health Center, but health experts in the district say transportation to the health center as well as effort to get there is a big obstacle which prevents many sexually active teens from gaining access to contraceptives.
Lynn Public Schools, the fourth largest school district in the state, has the sixth highest overall pregnancy rate in Mass.
"The birth of my baby brought bittersweet moments and postpartum depression, a bottle at 2 a.m., changing his diaper at 2 a.m.," said Destiny Davis, a student at Lynn Tech. "Every day is a struggle and every day I strive to do the best I can."
Last year, school officials report an alarming spike in teen pregnancies, only New Bedford and Lawrence had a higher teen pregnancy rate.
"If I knew sooner about birth control and how to prevent teen pregnancy, I probably would have chosen that road," said one teen mom.
This year, in Lynn alone there have been 57 pregnancies involving minors, but experts say STDs have also been a big problem. According to health officials, 21 cases of Chlamydia were registered in the month of September alone.
There were strong opinions on both sides who voiced their feelings ahead of the vote, including parents who are adamantly against it and teen parents who say access to contraceptives could’ve prevented their pregnancies.
"Providing a contraceptive is like giving a 17-year-old a Lamborghini," said Pedro Fabre, a father of two daughters. "They are not ready."
Other school districts across the state including Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Salem already provide access to contraceptives at school.
"I wish there were those resources out there because it’s not easy being a teen parent," said a former Lynn Tech student who got pregnant as a sophomore.
Those who got pregnant in their teens said they hoped these resources were around when they were in school, saying access and information could have prevented their pregnancies.
Others, however, only think this will further increase the problem of teen pregnancy and STD spreading. However, that has been proven wrong, and even the CDC says there is evidence to support that educating teens about sexual health decreases the rate of teen pregnancies.
"It’s crazy that you would need parental consent for a Tylenol but not for something that can have such great health risks," said Michael King, of the Massachusetts Family Institute.
"They’re actually helping create the problem that they’re trying to solve," said Mary Siegler, Massachusetts Informed Parents.
While the decision brought about mixed reactions, health experts employed by the school district say it addresses a present problem in Lynn that isn't going away.
"I feel like it’s more education and I'm all on board for it," said Ebony White, the Assistant Director of Youth Services at Centerboard, who is also a mother.
Out of the 57 pregnancies reported last year in the city, for about 12% of those girls it was not their first time getting pregnant.
"These are the kids who are already sexually active, we are not going out finding these kids - kids are going to do these things," said Julie Chan, a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner at Lynn Tech.