Opinion: Wellbeing Center at Glenn a Good Service
In August 2022, the Norwalk-La Mirada School Board decided not to go forward with a Planned Parenthood partnership as part of a Wellbeing Center at Glenn due to community comments and concerns. The Board listened to the community and voted against approving the MOU. The partnership with Planned Parenthood was dissolved and the school moved forward with the Department of Public Health/Mental Health only.
While many parents showed up to demand the board not go through with this plan, hardly anyone asked the students what they thought. The purpose of the clinic was to educate and provide resources for students involving medical issues, not to provide abortions. That was never the purpose of the center. One of the main misconceptions about this clinic was the issue of abortion, however, it shouldn’t have even been a point of discussion because it would not be provided, nor would Plan B (“abortion pills”). It is not a way to indoctrinate the children but simply to give support to those who need it.
Currently, the Wellbeing Center is aimed to provide services in three areas for students: to treat substance abuse, to provide mental health support, and to give sexual health education and resources. We have many at-risk teens in our school district, with around one-third of them reporting the ease of finding alcohol and drugs and almost half reporting feeling depressed or suicidal. After COVID, many students around the world became depressed, including our students.
The purpose of the Wellbeing Center is to give our students a trusted adult to help them through their emotional turmoil and to prevent them from turning to alcohol and drugs to cope. Too many children in our community have been subjected to addiction and it serves as a way to prevent them from being victims of a vicious cycle. In addition, sexual health support and education is another preventative measure because realistically, some students are sexually active and need assistance.
Originally a third partner in the Wellbeing Center, the canceled facility would have included pregnancy and STI testing, physicals, mental health resources, and contraception, if requested by the student. The goal of a Planned Parenthood-type of facility at Glenn was, first and foremost, to provide healthcare to all students. Almost all students were not even aware of the board’s consideration of a “Planned Parenthood” until they saw news of parents protesting being spread online and the notice shortly thereafter that they were postponing the vote. It was only later that the district and school informed parents and students alike that they would not be pursuing the matter anymore as part of the Wellbeing Center.
A number of students took a stance online and in the comment section of NLMUSD and other posts covering the protests. A majority of them were in favor of the Planned Parenthood facility being included on campus and were enraged by the parents’ lack of discussion.
As pointed out in the proposal, California law allows minors 12 and over access to sexual and reproductive health services, mental health services, and alcohol and drug treatment without parent knowledge. Technically, anyone at this school could still pursue the same services elsewhere outside the safety of the school. Students are not obligated to tell their parents anything; however, it is always a parent’s hope that their children will disclose their troubles. However, if their parents are not accepting or educated, it draws their children away. It’s better for a child to be treated for something that is bothering them (mental or physical) than having it fester and grow before it becomes a bigger issue.
The Wellbeing Center is a middle ground for parents and students to still treat issues and support students without the controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood.