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Full-service schools fill student needs, safely

Most youngsters can depend on their parents to take them to a doctor or a counselor when they need one. Low-income parents, however, sometimes can't or don't know where to find such services.

Using money appropriated by the Legislature, the Pasco County School District has established eight so-called "full-service schools" to help those families. It is money well-spent, not just on kindness but to spare children and taxpayers from compounded problems.

Though families benefit from this program, School Board candidates Kathy Livermore and Liz Dorp have identified it as a campaign issue.

Livermore said she is concerned that parents "know exactly what their child will be subjected to before they do anything to them in those clinics." She would have a valid concern if Pasco school officials didn't already require parents to sign detailed consent forms before their children are permitted to be treated or counseled at full-service facilities.

Livermore and Dorp also distributed copies of a bizarre newsletter published by the American Policy Center, which conjures a horrifying scene at a full-service school in East Stroudsburg, Pa., where 59 11-year-old girls are herded into an exam room, ordered to undress and "endure a probing examination of the most private areas of their bodies by a pediatrician."

What, if anything, happened at East Stroudsburg is unclear, but the American Policy Center describes it as a global threat, a sinister force executing a hidden agenda to destroy our schools and "our national fabric. It's a monster that says you no longer have control of your own life, or that of your child's."

That makes for lively reading, but it hardly reflects reality in Pasco's full-service schools.

By the end of this year, the school district will have spent about $2-million in state funds since 1991 to build, equip and staff the special facilities at these schools. Each school offers a different mix of services, such as dental and physical exams, academic tutoring and counseling to families.

Alex Weinberger, supervisor of student services, said the program has produced some happy results. Babysitting services offered at two full-service schools attracted young mothers intent upon earning their high school equivalency certificates, he said. The number of students enrolled in GED classes at Hudson High School roughly doubled after the babysitting service was established there.

Full-service schools in Pasco don't operate in the dark. Besides, any sinister force working to enslave us must be a little frustrated by state guidelines that require school districts to develop plans to reduce reliance on state appropriations for full-service schools and increase volunteer services by local professionals.

Taking over must be tough with more and more do-gooders wandering around.