(NaturalNews) A middle school in Portland, Maine is considering a proposal to provide birth control pills and patches to students as young as 11 years old. King Middle School launched a reproductive health program after five of the 135 students who visited the school's health center in 2006 reported being sexually active. The program already provides condoms to students, but the new proposal would expand this to include prescriptions for birth control pills and patches (which would then have to be purchased at a pharmacy).
The contraceptives could be dispensed without the knowledge of parents, although written permission would be required for children to receive (unspecified) services from the health center.
The proposed program has attracted controversy, with some people accusing the schools of taking away parental power and encouraging children to have sex too early. But school officials dispute these claims.
"We do certainly sit down and speak with them about why [being sexually active] is not a good choice," said Amanda Rowe, the school's nurse coordinator. "But there are some who persist... and they need to be protected."
Logan Levkoff, a sexologist and relationship expert, said that while the school may be stepping into a role that would better be filled by parents, many parents do not feel comfortable enough to do so. "Parents should be the sex educator for their children," Levkoff said. "The problem is not every parent feels empowered [to do so]."
Parents interviewed by ABC News were split on their feelings about the proposal.
"I don't think I would want my child in middle school to be getting birth control pills unless I had something to do with it," one woman said.
But another woman, a mother, disagreed: "I think that education at that age is appropriate because our culture is saturated with messages about sex," she said.