The Massachusetts school where a large group of girls became pregnant during the school year — some in a pact to have babies — will leave the paternity investigation to police, a school official told FOX News on Friday.
"Some girls are very reluctant to talk about who the men are, and those who work in these health centers are concerned that if we are overactive in trying to identify and prosecute the girls will stop using the center," Gloucester Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Farmer said. "This is essentially a matter for the police, not the Gloucester Public Schools."
On Thursday, news reports surfaced of Gloucester High School's sudden spike in pregnancies — at least 17 this school year, with reports of an 18th. Normally, there are about four pregnancies a year at the school.
The school's principal, Joseph Sullivan, told Time magazine the girls confessed to making the pact after the school began investigating. Some of the girls reacted to the news they were pregnant with high fives and plans for baby showers, Sullivan said. One of the fathers "is a 24-year-old homeless guy," Sullivan told the magazine.
Sullivan told Time that nearly half of the expecting students, none over 16, were involved in the so-called pact. Sullivan said students were coming to the school clinic multiple times to get pregnancy tests and "seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were."
Farmer backed away from the term "pact" in his interview with FOX News.
"I believe that the term 'pact' is being overused," Farmer told FOX News. "We do know that there was a small group of girls — and certainly not all the girls who got pregnant — who were apparently ... showing up at the health center for repeated pregnancy tests and when they became pregnant appeared to believe that that was a satisfactory outcome for their behavior."
Student Council member Emily Spreer said she was surprised to hear talk of a pact.
"Their circle or clique, they're not the most fortunate family-wise," she said.
Mayor Carolyn Kirk told The Associated Press on Friday that many factors are involved in the surge in pregnancies in her community, a hardscrabble fishing village which has fallen on tough economic times and cut teachers and services, including some health classes.
"I don't think there was a pact in the order of a dozen girls conspiring to get pregnant. That would really surprise me, and I have seen no evidence of it," she said.
Lisa Spilman, 19, a Gloucester graduate who got pregnant while she was attending the high school, told FOX News she was fearful for the girls.
"People are just dumbfounded by what's going on," she said. "The girls I guess made this pact and they wanted to get together and raise their children together. It's unrealistic because they're not thinking about their futures, and they're not thinking about the reality of having a child so young."
Christen Callahan, a former Gloucester High School student who had a child when she was 15, said on NBC's "Today" show that some of the girls would ask her about her own pregnancy.
"They would say stuff like, 'Oh, I think my parents would be fine with it and they would help me,' stuff like that," Callahan said.
But she said she had no firsthand knowledge of a pact among the girls to get pregnant.
"They were just kind of like curious about it; they never actually came out and said it," Callahan said.
The first reports of the students' apparent plan to get pregnant were in the Gloucester Daily Times in March, when Sullivan said students were reporting that the girls were getting pregnant on purpose.
Farmer told FOX News that school officials were looking into lack of self-esteem as one factor for the increased pregnancies.
"The general theory is that there are some young women who have very poor self-esteem and don't have a lot of affection in their lives, don't have much sense of direction and move into this kind of behavior as a way of, in a sense, finding a place for themselves in society," he said.
The rash of pregnancies has shaken the seaside city about 30 miles north of Boston. Last month two officials at the high school health center resigned to protest the resistance from the local hospital to the confidential distribution of contraceptives. The hospital administers the state money that funds the clinic.
"These girls have been making adult decisions, and they're going to have to deal with the adult consequences of their actions and I wish them the best of luck," Spilman said. "I hope that they're going to be able to do it."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.