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Candidates criticize full-service schools

Published Sep. 16, 2005

Two School Board candidates are assailing Pasco's plan for handing out annual funds to "full-service schools," which will be voted on tonight.

Republican challengers Liz Dorp and Kathy Livermore are distributing material decrying the whole idea of full-service schools, which offer a variety of medical, academic and counseling services to families.

Dorp and Livermore fear parents will lose control of their children _ and they point to an incident in Pennsylvania that has become a rallying cry for opponents of school-based clinics.

In March 1996, at a full-service school in East Stroudsburg, Pa., about 60 sixth-grade girls were given state-required physicals that included examination for signs of sexual abuse, sexually transmitted diseases or other problems. Some girls said later that the exams involved penetration.

Parents were notified the exams were taking place, but didn't have to give consent for the exams to occur. The school district has been sued, although the doctor, who eventually quit her job, was cleared of wrongdoing.

Pasco district officials say children "absolutely" will not be given treatment or services unless their parents have given consent. The district uses a detailed consent form at its full-service schools.

Eight Pasco schools and the vocational adult community education program will receive funds for an assortment of services if the board approves the annual request at its meeting at 6 p.m. today. Northwest, Mary Giella and Cox elementary schools, Hudson Middle School and Hudson, Pasco, Land O'Lakes and Ridgewood high schools are full-service schools. The $177,845 state allocation Pasco will receive must be spent on them.

Dorp, who is running against incumbent Democrat Pam Coulter in the general election, and Livermore, who faces incumbent Republican Marge Whaley in the September primary, object to the concept of full-service schools. They say the state doesn't have strong enough guidelines regarding parental consent.

Dorp and Livermore said Monday they want to see precisely what the School Board policy says regarding how services are rendered.

They want to ensure that parents "know exactly what their child will be subjected to before they do anything to them in those clinics _ parental rights," Livermore said.

Dorp and Livermore are distributing a packet of information about full-service schools, including a copy of the "Insider's Report," a newsletter of the conservative American Policy Center. The report describes "hysterical cries" emitting from the nurse's office at the Pennsylvania school.

The cries "weren't from "out-of-touch right-wing fanatics.' They were the cries of little girls who had just come face to face with the monster that is destroying not only our schools, but our national fabric," the newsletter says. "It's a monster that says you no longer have control of your own life or that of your child's."

The newsletter goes on to call the Pennsylvania incident "child abuse."

Assistant Superintendent Mary Giella said children in Pasco schools are not given any sort of exam or treatment without parental consent.

"The whole purpose of this is to keep the students in school," she said, adding that the schools actually contract out services to other agencies that then set up shop in the full-service clinics.

If a parent gave permission for their child to be treated for a sexually transmitted disease, then a clinic doctor would look at the youngster's genitals during an exam, Whaley said. She added that internal vaginal examinations are not done on girls at the clinics.

Coulter had little to say on the issue of full-service schools.

"I'm not opposed to them," she said.

Coulter is not overly supportive of the clinics and has in the past questioned the district's need to offer such services, which already can be obtained from other agencies.

Dorp argues in her campaign literature that Coulter has nothing to lose by allowing the clinics because Coulter's daughter attends Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa.

Coulter said that her daughter, who is in 10th grade, asked to go to the private school and that the matter "is not pertinent" to the School Board race. Her children attended Pasco schools for 12 years, she said, and she and her family have been actively involved in public schools here. Dorp, she said, never has been involved.

_ Information from The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., was used in this report.