GLOUCESTER, Mass. - The city's mayor said Monday there is no evidence a group of young girls made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together, seeking to dispel an explosive theory put forth by the high school principal.
'Any planned blood-oath bond to become pregnant - there is absolutely no evidence of,' Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Monday after a closed-door meeting with city, school and health leaders.
Conspicuously absent from that meeting was Gloucester High School Principal Joseph Sullivan, who has not responded to repeated requests for comment after he was quoted last week in a Time magazine story saying the girls planned to get pregnant together.
The mayor, who also sits on the school committee, said she was not comfortable having Sullivan at the meeting.
Kirk cited privacy concerns in refusing to answer many questions about the 17 girls who became pregnant this school year - more than quadruple the number who generally become pregnant at the school.
Kirk said she and Superintendent Christopher Farmer have been in touch with Sullivan, and that he was 'foggy in his memory' about how he came to believe there was a pact.
'When pressed, his memory failed,' Kirk said.
Authorities have talked to school and health officials who work most closely with the children and, Kirk said, 'The people that worked with the children on a daily basis have said there has been no mention whatsoever of a pact.'
But Time posted a story on its Web site Monday that included new quotes from its earlier interview with Sullivan in which the principal said a lack of access to birth control didn't play a part in the surge of pregnancies.
'That bump was because of seven or eight sophomore girls. They made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together,' Time quoted Sullivan as saying.
Calls to Sullivan's office and home have not been returned. So far, Sullivan is the only school or city official who has used the term 'pact.'
Time also reported Monday that Pathways for Children chief executive Sue Todd, whose organization runs the high school's onsite day-care center, told the magazine on June 13 that its social worker had heard of the girls' plan to get pregnant as early as last fall. Todd has not returned calls from The Associated Press.
The mayor said the spike in pregnancies is in keeping with similar spikes in other cities.
Farmer said there was a 'distinct possibility' that the girls who found themselves in similar, challenging situations later decided to 'come together for mutual support.'
He said the Time magazine piece did not distinguish between 'a pact to become pregnant or a pact because we are pregnant.'