Sex, safety and promiscuity at issue in teen clinic debate


Tension is building at Hopkins High School after the recent postponement of a decision by the school board on whether or not to house a satellite of a reproductive health clinic at the school.

“Last winter, I worked closely with West Suburban Teen Clinic and would refer students to them. They did a survey about wanting the clinic to be more accessible and that’s when the light bulb popped into my head. If you can’t get the kids to the service why not bring the service to the kids,” said Bobbi Pointer, a registered nurse and the licensed school nurse of Hopkins High School.

IIn May, the school board received a proposal from Pointer along with other district staff to implement a teen clinic in the high school. This proposal came shortly after the results of the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey showed 53 percent of male seniors and 50 percent of female seniors reported being sexually active. That’s up from 32 percent of male seniors in 2004 and 34 percent of female seniors reporting having ever had sex, Pointer said.

Teen Sexual Activity
The statewide results from the 2004 and 2007 surveys show little to no change in sexual activity rates among seniors.

12th Grade

Males Females Year

49% 49% 2007

46% 49% 2004

Sources: 2004 Minnesota Student Survey, 2007 Minnesota Student Survey

“It is a huge jump and that’s what we’re very concerned about,” Pointer said.

But, in August, the Hopkins school board was confronted by a handful of people who protested against the installation of a clinic in the high school and shortly after these meetings the clinic was suspended.

“I decided to postpone the clinic because there are many questions that didn’t have a response to them, and I want to be able to have that response for the school board,” said John Schultz, superintendent of the school district.

Many believe the people who made a complaint at the school board meetings were the deciding factor in the postponement, but Schultz said they were not.
Their comments included concerns that providing reproductive health services at school without parental consent violated the parents’ rights. Opponents also argued that the opt-out option for families wouldn’t change their mind about protesting the clinic because Minnesota law gives teens the right to visit a clinic without parental consent.

“Services offered in this way do support behaviors contrary to the moral good,” said Bill Clemen, an attendee of the August 21st school board meeting and a Hopkins school district resident.

The clinic, which has developed into a controversial issue, has struck a chord with many students and staff at Hopkins High School.

“I am very disappointed about the postponement of the clinic. We all know it is an emotional, hot topic,” said Pointer.
“It was stopped out of fear and I don’t believe we were able to respond in the moment,” she said.

The clinic, which was set to open in November, according to Pointer, was not a very well known topic at the high school until it was postponed and many questions have gone unanswered.

Feelings of students at the high school range from apathetic to fervent on the issue, but most seem to be in favor of the clinic coming to Hopkins.

“Teens are having sex. I think (by creating a clinic) they are just being realistic. (Those opposed to the clinic) are in a fantasy if they are not accepting it,” said Alyssa DeRubeis, senior at Hopkins High School.

But there are students who oppose it.

“I believe it isn’t the school’s business and there already is a teen clinic close by that students can get to,” said Julia Anderson, a senior.

The clinic was supposed to be available to students with reproductive health questions and needs, but many adults saw it as promoting sex to students.

“I want to make it clear that” in-school clinics “don’t only provide condoms and birth control. We want to supply them with better and clear information so they can make good decisions,” Pointer said.

Minnesota graduation requirements state that health instruction “must be provided to all students at least once” before they graduate from high school, but many think this isn’t enough to combat teenage pregnancy.

“Health class does a good job with the very limited time they have,” Pointer said.

Marit Lee Dohse, a health teacher at Hopkins High School agrees.

“Our” reproductive health “unit is nine days and we spend very little time on teenage pregnancy and STIs and mainly focuses on what a healthy relationship looks like,” Lee Dohse said. “It is absolutely not enough time to cover everything.”

Now the question stands of how the decision about the clinic is going to be made.

The answer is set to come in April once the school board gathers what they need and sets their agenda for what they will discuss for the 2009-2010 school year. The teen clinic is sure to be one of the topics.

“We have some work to do on our end to make sure the clinic fits in with other issues at the high school,” said Schultz.

The community input will be a big factor of whether or not a clinic will open at Hopkins, and this is what the administration thinks is currently lacking.

“I understand both sides of the equation. What I really truly believe is we need to do something, whether it is family wise or school-wise to feed the needs of the students. It takes a combination of family and community,” said Willie Jett, principal of Hopkins High School and a former health teacher at North Senior High School in Minneapolis, one of the first schools to have a teen clinic.

“The community” at Nouth High School “was just happy to have the clinic because it provided more than just reproductive health services,” Jett said. “I believe the clinic is one way of addressing issues, but, definitely, it is not the only way.”

There is no doubt this controversial decision will be much debated this year.

“We are not stopping in our pursuit for evidence-based research and information to present to the school board, so they understand the need that exists and what is best for students at Hopkins High School,” Pointer said.

Clinic needed to protect students

By Katy Combs, a senior at Hopkins High School and co-editor-in-chief of “The Royal Page”

For the first time in recorded history at Hopkins High School, more than half of the twelfth grade students reported being sexually active, according to the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey.

Fifty-three percent of senior males and 50 percent of senior females reported ever having sex in the 2007 Minnesota Student Survey. That’s up from 32 percent of males and 34 percent of females in 2004.

Of the 705 enrolled seniors at Hopkins High Schools in 2007, 351 of them participated in the survey. The survey is administered every three years to sixth, ninth, and twelfth grade students.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education website, the survey is meant to “provide students, parents and their communities with a dynamic vehicle for ongoing communication about issues vital to the health, safety and academic success of youth.”

The survey results for sexual activity may be unsettling for some parents and adults, but what many of them are disregarding is that high school students have either become or are in the process of becoming an adult: legally, mentally, and emotionally.

These are the same young men and women who we, as a society, have deemed responsible enough to drive in the vehicle next to us on Hopkins Crossroads.

This is the exact group of people we prepare to further their education at a secondary school or find a financially stable job after high school.

These are the young adults, if of legal age, who will vote Nov. 4 in arguably the most historically groundbreaking presidential election our country has ever witnessed.

Since we have educated these individuals to do those coming-of-age duties, shouldn’t we also do the same when it comes to their reproductive health?

The recent postponement of plans to implement a teen clinic on the Hopkins High School campus, a satellite of the West Suburban Teen Clinic, is hindering the safety of its students.

Bobbi Pointer, the school nurse, works closely with the teen clinic and has referred many Hopkins students there for care. The board of directors at the clinic took a survey of their users and the idea for a clinic at Hopkins High School was launched.

The Hopkins school board unanimously approved the proposal and plans proceeded.

This is the first time Hopkins High School has discussed housing a clinic, which would have also made it the first suburban school to do so. In Minneapolis and St. Paul, many high schools already have clinics, according to the Star Tribune.

The state survey results point to the obvious need for a clinic, and the Hopkins High School community would greatly benefit from having the resources a school-based clinic would provide.

Legally, minors may receive confidential health care, including reproductive health services, without parental consent under the Minnesota Minor Consent Law.

Numerous Hopkins students exercise this right and are treated at the West Suburban Teen Clinic in Excelsior, which for most is currently the closest clinic in the area. Last school year alone, a total of 373 visits to the clinic were made by 143 Hopkins students, according to the Star Tribune.

But with such a huge number of sexually active students, Hopkins teens need more accessible resources to make the most informed decisions about their sexuality.

During the 2007-2008 school year, at least 25 pregnant or parenting students attended Hopkins High School.

In order to prevent these statistics from continuing to grow, the housing of a convenient clinic at Hopkins is vital. Through the clinic, students would have access to free contraceptive methods such as birth control and condoms, however, it must be stressed that its services are not limited to just that.

The proposal for the school-based clinic outlines that developing knowledge of healthy relationships, the ability to refuse sexual advances, and information on sexually transmitted diseases would also be provided, to name a few.

Although the survey results showed a rise in the number of sexually active students at Hopkins, it also revealed that these students are having an increasingly difficult time talking to a sexual partner about sexually transmitted diseases.

The percentage of students who have never talked with a partner about STDs, HIV, and AIDS increased in 2007 by 12 percent among twelfth grade males to 31 percent, and 17 percent among twelfth grade females to 24 percent since 2004.

Research also shows that now 1 out of 4 teenagers have an STD, according to the Star Tribune.

A school-based clinic would promote the healthy aspects of sexuality, such as STD awareness, testing, and treatment, for no cost. But without a clinic, teens may easily let a harmful STD spread, and thus put an indefinite number of others at risk simply because they were too hesitant to ask.

Teen clinics provide a safe environment for young adults to discuss questions openly with a qualified professional. Many teenagers are afraid to communicate their sex-related concerns with their parents; a fear that exists because oftentimes mom and dad avoid having the awkward “sex talk” with their children.

This apprehension places students in vulnerable situations when they decide to have intercourse.

Hopkins students are in dire need of the resources provided by a clinic to gain a better understanding of how to treat, protect, and make educated decisions about their sex lives.

There is no proof that supports the argument that greater access to contraceptives will increase the number of sexually active students, according to research conducted by the Members of the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Planning.

No students were present at the Hopkins school board meetings over the summer where the plans for a satellite clinic were discussed, and most of the people that did attend to share their opinions didn’t even live in the district, nor were parents of students in the district.

Since the clinic would primarily affect the Hopkins High School student body, that’s the voice that the school board needs to hear from.

A high number of Hopkins students are going to have sex, protected or not, and will continue to do so. In order to maintain the reproductive health of the student body, the satellite clinic is necessary. It’s that simple.

Clinic would be message of low expectations for teens

By Rebekah Cornish, a senior at Hopkins High School

I made the decision that I am going to be abstinent in high school because I had the choice and because my family expectations are high. I do feel that I made the right decision and I am not picked on by my peers for it.

It would be more difficult to remain abstinent if there were a teen clinic in the school because to get to class you would have to walk by it and the peer pressure would increase.

As a teenage woman, I feel that it should be unnecessary for our communities to put teen clinics in schools.

Allowing a teen clinic to operate inside a school only promotes sex to teenagers, and it becomes almost expected that women in school will be sexually active.

Now, there will always be students that choose to have sex, but to have parents and communities permit a clinic in a school is condoning the belief that students will have sex anyway, so they want to promote protected sex.

This creates a low expectation for the students in the way they are expected to behave. The presence of a clinic in school would communicate that parents assume teens are incapable of making good decisions.

The problem with this theory is that teens have to learn about their social lives from someone.

Most of the time teens have sex it is to make their parents angry when they feel like their parents do not care. Preventing pregnancies and keeping teens safe is a family process that a clinic cannot do.

Teaching students to remain abstinent or protected is supposed to happen in a health-education classroom or in the home.

Most parents do not want their daughter to come home saying that she is pregnant, but any father or mother would most likely be just as upset if they found out their child was sexually active.

A better solution is to hold students to a higher standard. It is easier to disappoint someone when you know that they expect you to disappoint them, but it is harder to disappoint someone who expects the most out of you.

There are girls that I know who are abstinent and there are girls that I know who are pregnant. The most painful thing for me to remember is that these girls all started high school as young women with promising futures.

Previously, teens having sex was an act that was shunned. As the years have gone by it has become accepted more in the public’s eye. As of today, there are a few famous stars that do not condone teens having sex. The country song “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful” promotes the innocence of young women.

“The Secret Life of the American Teenager” is a television show that depicts the hardships of being pregnant or sexually active in high school. Many people say they wish they would have remained abstinent because that innocence is lost and missed by those who give it up.

A teen clinic cannot protect a persons’ innocence, it only protects people once innocence is lost or when the intention to have sex forms.

Teens do not wake up one day and decide to become pregnant. Being a father or a mother to a child as a teenager is complicated. Teen mothers may be more apparent because of their physical appearance, but teen fathers experience hardship too.

Father’s are expected to care for the mother of their child and their child. This includes financial aspects and the security of the family. Father’s tend to worry more about being a “good dad.” This pressure is stressful and can be unbearable at times, so even though the physical signs of being pregnant do not show on a boy, the pressures are still there.

Teens start high school with hopes and dreams for college and jobs. Some keep those high expectations and goals, and some fall into the stereotype of teenagers disappointing their parents and other adults.

Stop expecting teenagers to make mistakes and help them set higher standards for themselves.