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Public School Clinics

Few teen-agers are strangers to sex. Yet many sexually active youngsters plead ignorance about birth control. If they could learn at school how to prevent unwanted pregnancies, there might be fewer teen-age parents. That has been the experience of clinics on high school campuses in Minneapolis, Chicago and other cities.

Now we will see whether it works in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Unified School District will open its first school-based clinic in September at Jordan High School in Watts, thanks to private funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the perseverance of the school board despite opposition.

The Watts Health Foundation will staff Jordan’s campus health center. Students--who must have parental permission--may request birth-control information and devices. But family planning will represent only a fraction of the center’s services. Students may also request treatment for acne, athletic injuries and other ailments of adolescence. Or they may ask to talk about sex, gang activity, drugs or family problems.

Teen-agers don’t always get the best medical care. In poor communities like Watts youngsters have few choices. Even in middle-class families, some youngsters skip the yearly visit for a checkup because they consider themselves too old for the pediatrician and too young for their parents’ doctors.

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Campus health centers will allow teen-agers to get attention without waiting for a bus, an appointment, or an overworked doctor and without missing a day of school.

Two additional clinics are planned at Los Angeles High School in the Mid-Wilshire area and at San Fernando High School in the San Fernando Valley. The clinics need funding, and we hope the Johnson Foundation and other private foundations will be generous.

Teen-agers who chose to engage in sex need all the help they can get. Teen-age pregnancy is a massive national problem. The campus health center can help many youngsters avoid having babies, dropping out of school and ruining futures. The clinics are well worth trying.


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