Remember the story about the high school girls in Gloucester, Mass., who made a pact to get pregnant? It was a heck of a story until people started checking the facts and found no evidence that it was true.
What’s happened since then? Plenty. The principal of the school, cited as the source for the pact claim, has resigned effective tomorrow. He says the mayor of Gloucester and other officials slandered him by refusing to invite him to a news conference back during the height of the controversy, and questioning the existence of the pact, a word Sullivan says he never used. As with any small city newspaper, the “comments” section of the newspaper article on the subject provides more insight than the article itself (Worth noting, by the way, that a post comparing Gloucester to the rest of the state and, oddly, Minnesota, could’ve only come from News Cut).
An editorial in the paper provides a glimpse into the politics of it all:
Sullivan has said he doesn’t recall using the term “pact,” but then again, he was never really given the chance to confirm, deny or explain. When the media storm broke, Sullivan — like all other school personnel — was ordered by (School Superintendent Christopher) Farmer not to comment. He was barred from participating in any of the multiple press conferences. Mayor Kirk spoke for him, saying Sullivan’s memory was “foggy,” and that he couldn’t recall what he had told the Time reporter.
Not only was he ordered to remain silent while his reputation was tarnished, but since then he has not been consulted or even involved in the discussions that will eventually lead to policies on birth control and sex education for the school. These may well prove to be policies he might not support, but would be expected to enforce. That is not only insulting, but as Sullivan realized, it made it impossible for him to continue. No administrator can function effectively when he is being undermined and muzzled by his superiors.
Media critic Dan Kennedy writes today that the story here isn’t the “pact,” it’s the poor reporting from a national magazine, that cost a man his job.
Still, it has struck me as exceedingly odd that here, in Oprah Nation, not one of these young women would step forward. Let’s not forget, too, that one pregnant 17-year-old Gloucester High student appeared on national television and denied there was any such pact. Rather, she said some of the students became close after they got pregnant, a claim that comports with some inside knowledge I had picked up around the same time.
Time magazine shouldn’t just be given a pass on this.