A guest-post by Kate
Like many young girls, I spent a long-time convincing my mother to allow me to go on birth control, which largely involved lying to her about how I needed it for all the great things it does besides contraception (“But Sarah said it makes her periods lighter, mom! And it’s supposed to be great for my skin, and make my boobs b. . . uh. . . I mean, and it’s great for my skin!”).
So imagine how happy I was when a friend emailed me the text of a recent Washington Post article, that started like this:
When a Fairfax County mother got an urgent call from school last month reporting that her teenage daughter was caught popping a pill at lunchtime, she did not panic. “It was probably her birth-control pill,” she thought. She was right.
What a progressive, sex positive mom, right? Maybe this is going to be a happy feminist article! Think again:
Her heart dropped that afternoon in the assistant principal’s office at Oakton High School when she and her daughter heard the mandatory punishment: A two-week suspension and recommendation for expulsion.
According to the article, the punishment is part of a zero-tolerance drug policy in the school district, one that extends to over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or cough medicine. The girl’s punishment is comparable to what it would be if she had carried a hand gun into the school.
While this whole thing seems ludicrous, the thing that bothers me most about this situation is that this girl wasn’t busted taking Sudafed or ibuprofen, (though that would be overzealous, too, I won’t take on the stupidity of this whole policy for the moment) but taking a preventative medicine. As a health advocate in the piece points out, this comes dangerously close to “[stigmatizing] responsible behavior.”
Last June, people around the country were panicked, baffled and desperate over what to do about the supposed Gloucester pregnancy pact. Less than a year later, a teenage girl makes a responsible decision about her reproduction, but at the wrong time of day, and is forced out of school for two weeks with the possibility of expulsion.
And we wonder where we went wrong.
Kate is a political blogger and reporter who works and lives in Brooklyn. She has written for Talking Points Memo, The Washington Independent, Columbia Journalism Review and The Guardian, among other outlets. Follow her @itscompliKATEd on Twitter.
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