PORTLAND (AP) – The Portland School Committee is poised to take up a proposal that would enable students at King Middle School to obtain birth control prescriptions from the school’s health center.

Under the plan scheduled for consideration Wednesday night, King would become the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available to students in grades 6 through 8, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.

King’s health center, which opened in 2000, already provides condoms as part of its reproductive health program. Prescription birth control, such as pills or patches, would be prescribed after a physical examination by a physician or nurse practitioner, said Lisa Belanger, who oversees Portland’s student health centers.

The centers require that students have written parental permission before being treated. Under state law, students are allowed to seek confidential health care and decide whether to inform their parents about the services they receive, Belanger said.

Most middle school students range in age from 11 to 13. Proponents of the new proposal say a small number of King students are sexually active, but those who are need better access to birth control.

Five of the 134 students who visited King’s health center during the 2006-07 school year reported having sexual intercourse, said Amanda Rowe, lead nurse in Portland’s school health centers.

“This is a service that is totally needed,” Rowe said. “It’s about very few kids, but they are kids who don’t have the same opportunities and access as other students.”

Statewide, the percentage of middle school students who reported having sexual intercourse dropped from 23 percent in 1997 to 13 percent in 2005, according to the Maine Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

Maine has 27 school-based health centers, with 20 of them – including those in Portland – funded and overseen by the state, said Nancy Birkhimer, director of teen health programs for DHHS.

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