PORTLAND, Maine – A Maine middle school is poised to become the first in the state to offer birth control prescriptions to students through its student health center.
The Portland School Committee will weigh the proposal Wednesday, which would enable students at King Middle School to obtain the pill.
Under the plan, King would become the first middle school in Maine to make a full range of contraception available to students in sixth through eighth grades, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services.
“This is a proposal we have been working on for six months,” Douglas S. Gardner, the director of Portland's health and human services department, said in a statement. “It came about from kids self reporting that they were sexually active.
"Clearly they are too young to be engaged in sexual intercourse, but the reality is that they are sexually active," he said. "It is our responsibility to offer a full range of primary care services to students. Fortunately it’s a small number."
Five of the 134 students who visited King's health center during the 2006-2007 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."
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.
Although students must have written parental permission to be treated at Portland's school-based health centers, state law allows them to seek confidential health care and to decide whether to inform their parents about the services they receive, Belanger said.
Parents at most school-based health care centers can restrict access to specific services, said Divya Mohan, the communications manager for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care in Washington, D.C.
"There's a lot of widespread support for these centers because of all the other services they provide," she told FOXNews.com. "The reproductive health services are probably among the smallest of the services provided in the center."
Typically the most common treatments at school-based health care centers are those for acute illness, comprehensive health assessments, asthma treatment, immunizations and sports physicals, Mohan said.
"The two most common reproductive health services provided are pregnancy testing and abstinence counseling," Mohan said, noting that it is rare for a middle school to offer birth control.
Most middle school students at King 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.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.