Sullivan Co. Director of Schools: Distribution of birth control flyer at Mary Hughes was ‘oversight’

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SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL)- A sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper has sparked concern in Sullivan County.

A flyer promoting the Remote Area Medical clinic’s recent stop at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray was given to students at Mary Hughes School in Piney Flats. The front side of the flyer promoted free dental, vision, and medical care. On the back side, free birth control “including implants, IUDs, pills, condoms, and more” was advertised.

https://www.wjhl.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/98/2019/11/flyerforjordan-1.jpg?w=900
Back of flyer

When parent Rich Penkoski saw the flyer his 2nd grade son brought home, he was outraged.

“This is a full-page ad, full-page flyer promoting birth control, condoms, and more, to my seven-year-old,” Penkoski said.

Front of flyer

Penkoski made his voice heard at the Sullivan County School Board meeting Thursday night. He was joined by Pastor Dale Walker, president of the Tennessee Pastors Network.

“This garbage in this flyer is anything but Christian values. And Christian families have a right to be upset about it,” said Walker.

The flyer went home with students at the Piney Flats school last Friday. However, this Wednesday night was the first time Sullivan County Schools Director Dr. David Cox heard about it.

“This, I would say, was an inadvertent distribution of that material, instead of just printing the one side,” said Cox.

Cox said flyer materials related to the clinic were forwarded to the school’s nurse coordinator from ETSU health services. The school then created front and back flyers and sent them home with students. Cox believes including the backside of the flyer was an oversight.

“There was no bad intention, there was no political agenda at work here. It simply was an intent to share information about free health services,” said Cox.

Penkoski and the Tennessee Pastors Network do not believe it was a simple mistake.

“How could this be an oversight? That’s a full page,” said Penkoski.

Cox said the school system will change its procedures in reviewing what gets sent home with students.

“We will review our materials distribution policy and make sure that we pay really close attention to that for the future,” he said.

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