School health centers didn't report underage sex
After King Middle School moves to offer birth control, the District Attorney says schools must report anyone under age 14 who's having sex.
By KELLEY BOUCHARD, Staff Writer October 26, 2007
Portland's school-based health centers have not been reporting all illegal sexual activity involving minors as required by law, but they will from now on, city officials said Thursday.
Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson questioned the health centers' reporting practices after the Portland School Committee decided last week to offer prescription birth control at the King Middle School health center.
The King Student Health Center has offered comprehensive reproductive health care, including providing condoms and testing for sexually transmitted diseases, since it opened in 2000. The school serves students in grades 6 to 8, ages 11 to 15.
Maine law prohibits having sex with a person under age 14, regardless of the age of the other person involved, Anderson said.
A health care provider must report all known or suspected cases of sex with minors age 13 and under to the state Department of Health and Human Services, she said. Abuse also must be reported to the appropriate district attorney's office, Anderson said, when the suspected perpetrator is someone other than the minor's parent or guardian.
"When it's somebody under age 14, it is a crime and it must be reported," Anderson said. "The health care provider has no discretion in the matter. It's up to the district attorney to decide."
Anderson said she contacted Portland officials after she learned that some employees of the health centers, which are operated by the city's Public Health Division, believed they could decide whether a child's sexual activity constituted criminal abuse.
In fact, if a child under age 14 was having consensual sex with someone of a similar age, health center employees weren't reporting it to the proper authorities, said City Attorney Gary Wood.
Anderson said doctors and other health care providers in private practice may falsely believe they have similar leeway, but they must follow the same laws.
"It's clear that it's going on all the time," Anderson said. "Either the law is going to be enforced or it needs to be changed. I don't think a law should be routinely violated."
As we pointed out last week, Maine's Age Of Consent is 14 and sexual activity by anyone under that age is potentially a crime, regardless of the age of the other person involved. The law may be flawed, but it is the law.
And at what point does the State become an accessory to the crime of statutory rape, if the State is actively distributing (and subsidizing?) birth control pills to 11 year olds?
ARC: St Wendeler