TOCCOA, GA -- School officials in this rural north Georgia town have found out the hard way that there's a price to pay for usurping the rights of parents. Stephens County School Superintendent Ed Mills, middle school counselor Ann Mills, and Principal James Bellamy have all been named in a $3 million lawsuit alleging that they allowed two female students to be transported to a birth-control clinic during school hours without parental permission.
Waymon and Sharon Earls charge that counselor Ann Mills, the superintendent's wife, drove the Earls's two teenage daughters in her own car to the Stephens County Health Department, where they were subjected to pap smears and AIDS tests, and given birth-control pills and condoms. The Earls say they were never asked permission for the girls to visit the clinic and in fact did not learn of the incident until months later. They contend that Ann Mills told them the matter was "confidential and none of their business" and that they have been denied access to the test results.
The suit alleges that Ann Mills, at the principal's suggestion, advised the teenage girls to obtain the tests and the birth-control materials, thereby interfering with the family's "freedom of religious expression" and encouraging "activities the parents . . . deem abhorrent and wrong for their minor children." The suit charges the defendants with contributing to the delinquency of minors, endangering the health of the two teenagers, and violating School Board regulations. It also challenges the constitutionality of the state law that allows minor females to obtain birth control and abortions without parental knowledge.
"The school system adamantly denies that any school official took anyone to the clinic for the purpose of obtaining birth-control devices," said a lawyer for the School Board. Superintendent Mills contends that the girls approached his wife for advice on sexual matters that did not "directly" involve birth control. "They said they needed help. She didn't solicit them. We don't go out looking for cases to help," insisted the superintendent, who concedes that his wife has driven many students to the clinic over the years. "In a matter like this," he said, "it is confidential and even the parents don't have to be informed under the law."