When 18 Teenagers Entered A High School Pregnancy Pact, It Shook Their Quiet Community To The Core

For the majority of female teens, pregnancy is the result of an accident and comes as an unexpected shock. But in 2008 it was alleged that a gang of girls in Gloucester, Massachusetts, had conceived a clandestine plan to all get impregnated on purpose. What else could have explained 18 high-school students falling pregnant at the same time? The media descended on their sleepy hometown when rumors grew about the secret pact to procreate. But what the reporters discovered spawned a wider debate…

Less than 30,000 people call Gloucester home, but the small fishing town bustles in summer when tourists flock to the city’s beachy stretch of Massachusetts’ North Shore. Otherwise, it is known as the picturesque backdrop to author Sebastian Junger’s book, and subsequent film, The Perfect Storm. The novel and 2000 movie, starring George Clooney, both told the true story of a disaster that struck a Gloucester-based fishing crew.

However, in 2008, the world’s eyes would be on the small town for a completely different – yet still dramatic – reason. It had all begun the previous October, when Kim Daly, the nurse at Gloucester High School, picked up on something strange about the female students in the new school year. The medical professional experienced a significant uptick in the number of girls coming to her for pregnancy tests.

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Admittedly, this could just have been evidence that the school’s math classes were working. It was cost-effective for the students to see the nurse for a free test, rather than buying them from a drug store where they cost almost $10 each. But as the academic year progressed, Daly noticed something else. Just a few weeks in, the nurse had already found four of her students were pregnant. This represented the same number of pregnancies the high school had seen during the previous academic year in its entirety.

In addition, Nurse Daly noted strange behavior among the girls coming to see her for the pregnancy tests. For a start, some of them would come to see her to get tested on a weekly basis. It was almost as if the students were hopeful, eagerly anticipating a positive result.

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Indeed, Daly observed that some of the high schoolers cried upon receiving a negative pregnancy test result. Reportedly, this was in stark contrast to the reaction when the girls found out they were expecting a baby. Daly said the students were thrilled by what would ordinarilly be seen as bad news.

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And these trends continued into the next semester. By March, no less than ten children had found out that they were mothers-to-be. At the end of the school year, that number had climbed to a remarkable 18. Understandably, this unwelcome result sparked some school officials to propose the distribution of free contraceptives to the student body.

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Nonetheless, Dr. Joseph Sullivan, principal of Gloucester High School, dramatically denied any suggestion that his pupils might need access to such a resource. In June 2008 he spoke to Time magazine about the sharp increase in student pregnancies at his school. He stated, “A lack of birth control played no part.”

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But it was what he said next that sent shockwaves across the U.S. – and the rest of the world when the story spread online. Sullivan went on to claim that the “bump [in pregnancies] was because of seven or eight sophomore girls. They made a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together.”

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Sullivan’s conspiracy theory certainly engendered a lot of media heat. Nevertheless, very little clear evidence of a pact came to light. Sue Todd still heads up Pathways for Children, a local not-for-profit which, in its own words, aims to meet “the childcare, educational, social and emotional needs of children and their families on the North Shore.” The organization ran a daycare center at Gloucester High School and, according to Todd, its social worker had heard rumblings of the pact in the fall of 2007.

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Moreover, the caseworker had pinpointed that several of the students involved were considered “at-risk,” and much more likely than their classmates to become teen mothers. Todd told Time, “What we’ve seen is the girls fit a certain profile. They’re socially isolated, and they don’t have the support of their families.”

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But Christopher Farmer, the high school’s superintendent, told the magazine that in his opinion the girls had not become pregnant on purpose. Instead, Farmer believed that once the group of students had found out they were all with child, they had banded together to support one another through the process.

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Ultimately, however, only the 18 pregnant teens could have answered the question – was there really a pregnancy pact? Some of the expectant high schoolers shunned any interviews, shying away from the media circus that had set up camp in Gloucester. Meanwhile, others were more comfortable in the public eye, and happier to speak on the subject.

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Indeed, Kyla Brown, a pregnant 17-year-old who had attended Gloucester High School, spoke to Marie Claire women’s magazine in September 2018. At that point, the mom-to-be was eight months gone and explicitly denied being part of any pact to have babies. In fact, Brown maintained she was “freakin’ devastated” to learn she was expecting. She said, “I did not want this.”

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Another expectant 17-year-old Gloucester High girl, Lindsey Oliver, also denied to Marie Claire that she was part of a pregnancy plot. Instead, Oliver described herself and her fellow pregnant pupils as simply unlucky. Brianne Mackey, also 17, admitted that she had heard rumors of a pact, but denied the claims that any of the teens had been coerced by their peers to conceive.

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However, the girls who were suspected by Todd and others to be in on the pact were all among those who shunned the media. Consequently, the existence of any secret agreement to simultaneously get pregnant among the students of Gloucester High was neither confirmed or denied. Principal Sullivan stood behind his initial statement, even though Carolyn Kirk, the town’s then mayor, Brian Orr, the school’s medical director, and Nurse Daly were all adamant that it was not true.

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One thing did become clear, however. The whole saga shed light on an internal political struggle at Gloucester High School. Both Orr and Daly had been pushing to give the student body access to free contraception for some time. Nonetheless, Principal Sullivan continually denied the demand for such a program.

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Consequently, Orr and Daly came to believe the principal had concocted the whole idea of a pregnancy pact. The medical professionals felt that this had conveniently drawn attention away from Sullivan’s failure to provide for his students’ contraceptive needs. Subsequently, both medical director Orr and Nurse Daly quit working for the high school in protest.

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But it turned out that they were not to be the last out of the door. In August 2008 Sulilvan also stepped down from his post just before the start of the new school year. Reportedly, the principal felt betrayed by Gloucester’s mayor, the school board and their opposing views on the existence of the pact. After that, the whole story slowly died down. But in 2017, some of the town’s residents told TV current affairs show Inside Edition that Gloucester still remembered the pregnancy conspiracy.

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Indeed, by that time, the babies in question were approaching double figures and would have been visual reminders of the scandal. The reporters from Inside Edition caught up with Brianne Mackey, who had spoken with Marie Claire back in the fateful year of 2008. Now the mom of Carly, a nine-year-old fourth grader, one thing had not changed with Mackey. She still flatly denied being part of any sort of secret pregnancy ring, but did concede one thing. Mackey said she felt that the rumor would mar her hometown’s reputation forever. She told the cameras, “I think that people are always going to sadly think there was some type of pact.”

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