Planned Parenthood debate trickles down to New Hanover County school board

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The discussion during Tuesday’s New Hanover County school board meeting veered away from education and onto another topic: Planned Parenthood.

The subject came up after board chairman Don Hayes asked about charitable fundraisers the schools participate in. Only two are district-wide: the United Way of the Cape Fear Area and the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

Board member Janice Cavenaugh said she’d been asked if the local United Way contributes to Planned Parenthood. Although some individual United Ways around the nation do contribute to the organization, the Cape Fear chapter does not, said Tom Barth, chairman of the local United Way board.

Planned Parenthood has been under fire following a series of undercover videos showing officials of the nonprofit agency allegedly discussing ways to make money from selling aborted fetal tissue, fetal organs or intact fetuses for research. Planned Parenthood has countered that the videos were heavily edited and said the agency receives money to cover the cost of preserving and transferring the tissue but does not profit.

The resulting backlash has prompted calls to defund the organization; while supporters say the videos are part of a deliberate attempt to discredit the organization, which provides contraception, women’s health services, cancer screening and prevention, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, the abortion pill  and in-clinic abortions.

“So none of the funds go to Planned Parenthood?” Cavenaugh asked.

“There are local ones (in other places) that do, but we do not,” Barth said. The Cape Fear area United Way funds agencies that make an impact in three priority areas, he said: education, health care and financial stability.

Like many public and private employers, the New Hanover County Schools participate in the United Way’s annual fund drive. The local chapter is independent but sends 1.8 percent to the national and international organizations for administration and marketing. Other than that, the money stays here.

The organization looks for agencies that “move the needle” in terms of making a community impact, Barth said.

Also, Tuesday, the board heard from a teacher’s husband who commented that some administrators do not support teachers, sometimes to the point of bullying. Although he did not provide names or schools, Richard Chandler urged the board to develop policies to protect teachers against heavy-handed administrators or retribution if they try to speak up.

He said he was speaking “for those who have been silenced.” Chandler made his remarks during a three-minute comment period; the board typically does not engage the speaker during that designated time.

In other business, the board voted 5-1 to approve a budget resolution that contains contingencies based on the outcome of spending discussions in the N.C. General Assembly. The House and Senate have yet to agree on a budget, and their versions are far apart in some places.

The school board agreed, based on concerns by board members Lisa Estep and Cavenaugh, to hold off hiring for a handful of the 18 new locally funded positions until after a final state budget is in place — in case the money is needed for something else. Only school-level positions will be filled in the interim.

email tricia@luminanews.com

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