The Gloucester Controversy Maternity High
Even so, when school officials discovered in spring that 17 girls under the age of 16 were expecting, officials grew concerned. "To have this many is extremely unusual. The volume frightens me," principal Joseph Sullivan told the Gloucester Daily Times in March. And after he suggested to TIME that the girls had deliberately gotten pregnant together, a wave of controversy crashed over the mostly Catholic working-class city (until now best known as the home port of the doomed vessel in The Perfect Storm). No pregnant teens stepped forward to admit it, and Sullivan did not attend a June 23 closed-door meeting where Gloucester officials discussed—and dismissed—any idea of an alleged "pregnancy pact." "None of the counselors at the school, none of the teachers who know these children and none of the families have spoken about it," said Mayor Carolyn Kirk.
PEOPLE interviewed dozens of Gloucester High students, none of whom confirmed a pact. Joe Comeau, 15, a rising junior, doubts one existed. "A lot of girls got pregnant, because a lot of girls were sleeping around," he said. "One week they're all friends, and the next week they hate each other."
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