A pact made by a group of teens to get pregnant and raise their children together is at least partly behind a sudden baby boom at Gloucester High School, school officials said.
The girls confessed to making the pact after the school began investigating a spike in pregnancies, Principal Joseph Sullivan said. At least 17 girls at the 1,200-student school are pregnant; normally, there are about four pregnancies a year at the school.
“I've heard some of them were not accidents; some of them were pleased when they got the results,” said Greg Verga, a member of the Gloucester School Committee. “I did hear that there were cases where a teen went in several times for pregnancy tests and seemed depressed when it was negative.”
Some of the girls reacted to the news they were pregnant with high-fives and plans for baby showers, Sullivan told Time magazine this week. One of the fathers “is a 24-year-old homeless guy,” he said.
Superintendent Christopher Farmer confirmed to WBZ-TV that the girls had “an agreement to get pregnant.”
He said the girls are generally “girls who lack self-esteem and have a lack of love in their life.”
Christen Callahan, a former Gloucester student who had a child when she was 15, said on NBC's “Today” show that some of the girls would ask her about her own pregnancy.
“They would say stuff like, ‘Oh, I think my parents would be fine with it and they would help me.' Stuff like that,” Callahan said.
But she said she had no firsthand knowledge of a pact between the girls to get pregnant.
“They were just kind of like curious about it, they never actually came out and said it,” Callahan said.
The first reports of the students' apparent plan to get pregnant were in the Gloucester Daily Times in March, when Sullivan said students were reporting that the girls were getting pregnant on purpose.
The rash of pregnancies has shaken the seaside city about 30 miles north of Boston.
Last month, two officials at the high school health center resigned to protest the resistance from the local hospital to the confidential distribution of contraceptives. The hospital administers the state money that funds the clinic.
The surge in teenage pregnancy has brought a heated debate over contraception and education in Gloucester, which is heavily Roman Catholic. The school clinic's medical director and its chief nurse practitioner both resigned in May after the hospital that administers grants for the clinic opposed making contraceptives available to students.
The clinic does not distribute contraceptives, and Gloucester High School's health curriculum has been cut for budget reasons, meaning there is no sex education, officials said.
“This is a city in transition going through a hard economic time,” Mayor Carolyn Kirk said.
“There are cuts in economic programs, cuts in services, cuts in after-school programs, and they're all impacting the social climate. We really let these kids down.” The New York Times contributed.