Complaints Arise About Planned Parenthood as Student Resource in Brewster

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Planned Parenthood has been an organization at the center of contention for years. Last Tuesday that controversy came to the Brewster school district.

At the end of a Brewster Board of Education meeting on Sep. 13, a resident questioned why Brewster schools is providing Planned Parenthood as a listed resource for students on its website and student handbook.

Parent and resident Marie Sangalli said she was talking on behalf of parents and taxpayers concerned about the Planned Parenthood listing attached to the district. Sangalli said last school year, some district residents requested that former high school principal Joe Castagnola scrub Planned Parenthood as a resource on the student handbook and district website.

Castagnola granted that request, but it was later overruled by the school board and after further review by the policy committee and high school administration, Planned Parenthood was kept affixed to the handbook and website, Sangalli said.

“This is deeply disturbing that a district that does so many great things for the kids and you claim to care so much about the safety and welfare of our students that you would refer them to an organization like Planned Parenthood,” Sangalli said. “My only thought is that you don’t know anything about Planned Parenthood.” She called Planned Parenthood’s tactics “unethical” and argued it doesn’t properly educate teenagers about sex.

Sangalli said Planned Parenthood promotes and facilitates early sexual activity in teens when they are the “most vulnerable.” She added the non-profit encourages a cycle that leads to STD testing, pregnancy testing, and even possibly abortion.

By listing Planned Parenthood on the website and handbook, the district is leading students to believe that they are a “trusted” health service, she said.

Sangalli started a petition that has the support of 91 people so far, she said afterward.

“I feel this is irresponsible,” Sangalli said. “We all feel this is irresponsible.”

In the student handbook, there is a disclaimer that states the inclusion of the contact information attached to an agency (including Planned Parenthood) is for informational use only and isn’t intended to be an endorsement or recommendation of an agency.

About three minutes into her remarks, board president Dr. Stephen Jambor told Sangalli she reached her two-minute limit to speak. After she asked to speak more, Jambor said it was policy to only allow two minutes no matter what.

Jambor clarified that the school board doesn’t make any policy decisions regarding the agencies placed on the school website, but consults with professionals that come up with resources. He also said the board relies on the school’s staff of paid professionals to determine what to include on the student resource list.

“We did not act in isolation,” Jambor said. “And we did consult with reputable resources for what should be on our resource list. And yes, some people are totally within their right to feel otherwise about the inclusion of certain agencies. We respect that right.”

On the school website, there are 66 different organizations listed as resources for students. Some are simply Putnam County government agencies like the sheriff’s department or health department, while others are services for drugs/alcohol, mental health, and crisis intervention. Some are nationwide organizations like The Trevor Project (suicide prevention for LGBT youth) while others are local like Green Chimneys.

There used to be a Planned Parenthood in Brewster along Carmel Avenue, but it’s now permanently closed and no other location exists in Putnam. There are several Planned Parenthood locations in nearby Connecticut, Westchester and Dutchess counties.

On its website, Planned Parenthood states it offers abortion services, birth control, emergency contraception, HIV testing, STD testing, treatment and vaccines, pregnancy testing and services, and general health care for both men and women. Supporters of Planned Parenthood tout it as a critical resource for women’s healthcare, while many opponents decry it for being one of the country’s largest abortion providers.

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