Parents Say School Arranged Birth Control

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (CN) – Officials in an upstate New York school district stood by as students were whisked off campus to receive physical exams and birth control prescriptions without parental consent, parents of one student claim in a class action.
     Anthony and Eva Jackson allege that a school counselor and his wife, who worked at a local health clinic, “agreed, conspired and/or arranged” the trips, which occurred during school hours beginning in June 2011 in the Peekskill City School District.
     At the clinic, “plaintiffs’ minor daughter was examined and prescribed birth control pills before being transported back to school … all without plaintiffs’ knowledge, consent or opportunity to opt out,” the parents say in the lawsuit in Westchester County Supreme Court.
     The Jacksons say they alerted then-Superintendant James Willis to the trips, and that Willis “did nothing, thereby implicitly but affirmatively condoning” them.
     Willis, the district and its school board are named as defendants. Also named are James Tosto, who worked for the district as a school counselor, and his wife, Dawn Tosto.
     She is identified in the complaint as an employee of the Hudson River Community Health Clinic, who had access to school premises and students. James Tosto will retire from the district this month, according to minutes of a January school board meeting at which the June retirements of several district employees were approved. The minutes are posted online.
     Peekskill, pop. 25,000, about 53 miles north of New York City, had one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy in Westchester County two decades ago, at 122 births per 1,000 females age 15-19, according to The New York Times. More recently, that rate is 47 per 1,000, state health statistics from 2009-11 show.
     The Jacksons claim other students also were taken for exams and given access to birth control.
     They claim that James Tosto arranged the “unauthorized transport,” which Dawn Tosto provided, from campus to the clinic.
     The Jacksons say they learned of the trips after their daughter began taking the birth control pills.
     They claim the trips violated their due process rights under the U.S. and New York constitutions. They also contend the trips violated provisions of state public health law that require parental consent for health services provided to unemancipated minors.
     Because the defendants acted “willfully, maliciously, intentionally, oppressively, and in reckless disregard of plaintiffs’ constitutional rights and the possible consequences of their conduct,” the Jacksons say punitive damages should be awarded jointly and severally.
     They also seek compensatory damages, costs and fees.
     They are represented by Mary Marzolla with Feerick Lynch MacCartney in South Nyack.
     Lorenzo Licopoli, who replaced Willis as interim district superintendent in 2013, did not respond to an email Monday afternoon seeking comment.
     Willis, hired as superintendent in July 2011, retired last summer in the middle of a four-year contract. At the time, he said he wanted to spend more time with his family, which lived out of state.
     The school board subsequently issued a statement that cited “irreconcilable differences” with Willis, but said the parting was amicable.
     The board statement said Willis was paid six months’ severance and given health insurance benefits so long as he stayed “retired and unemployed.”

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