Humble ISD trustees considered terminating a contract with the Memorial Hermann Community Benefit Corp. that would provide free health care to thousands of students due to the inclusion of family planning services.

The overview

During HISD's Sept. 12 board meeting, trustees ultimately decided to table the vote to terminate the contract until a future meeting.

The contract, which was initially approved by board members in November 2021, stipulated the district would build a space for the clinic at the Humble High School campus that would then be staffed and operated by Memorial Hermann. Five current board members voted to approve the contract in 2021: Robert Scarfo, Robert Sitton, Chris Parker, Ken Kirchhofer and Martina Lemond Dixon.

Among the free services listed in the contract are:
  • Health screenings
  • Physicals
  • Immunizations
  • Acute minor injury and illness treatment
  • Family planning services
  • Health education
  • Individual and group counseling
Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen noted parents would be required to opt in or out of every possible health care service on an annual basis for their student to be seen.

Due to construction delays, the item was reintroduced at the Sept. 12 meeting with a measure included to enter into negotiations with Memorial Hermann to build the clinic in a temporary space while construction on the permanent location is completed.

Why it matters

Fagen said the year-round clinic would provide free health care to students at:Among those schools, four are designated as Title I campuses, meaning at least 40% of students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. According to the Texas Education Agency, those campuses include:
  • Ross Sterling Middle School: about 78% of students designated as low income
  • Lakeland Elementary School: about 81% of students designated as low income
  • North Bend Elementary School: about 81% of students designated as low income
  • River Pines Elementary Schoo: about 77% of students designated as low income
What they’re saying

During the Sept. 12 meeting, Parker acknowledged she voted to approve the contract in 2021 but said she has since reconsidered her position.

“When I reread the contract a few months ago, two words gave me pause, and the two words were ‘family planning,’” Parker said.

Fagen said she reached out to Memorial Hermann staff prior to the meeting to seek clarification on what family planning services entailed.

“Memorial Hermann does not provide any abortions or abortion care,” Fagen said. “With parent consent, they will discuss birth control methods with students who require that and whose parents want that.”

Scarfo questioned why Memorial Hermann would include family planning services in the contract.

“I don’t understand why they want to fall on their sword on that one piece,” Scarfo said. “If they really want to provide this great service—which I think is great for the population we’re trying to target this to with all the wellness health and vaccinations—I just don’t understand why.”

Just before calling for a vote to terminate the contract, Parker pointed to her own child’s experience in the district.

“My 15-year-old has done health class, and we have just done such a fantastic job of teaching abstinence for kids, so on one hand, we are saying the only protected way to be intimate is to abstain, but on the other hand, we’re saying, ‘But if you want to, here’s birth control,’” Parker said. “I liken it to us taking a stand [of being] anti-vape, ... ‘But if you’re going to do it anyway, we’ll provide you a vape pen.’”

Parker said she supported the clinic outside of the issues she presented.

Bryant Lee, pastor of Higher Expectations Community Church in Atascocita, spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting.

“I’m here to encourage the board today to make haste in opening up the [clinic] for our students—not allowing all of the politics, all of the building projects, all of the weight we have in our district to prevent those who are in most need of health care to get it within our district,” Lee said. “Our most socially economic challenged students will miss many school days, but having a free clinic on our campuses for those in that feeder pattern will make a world of difference.”

What's next

Trustees ultimately decided to table the vote to terminate the district's contract with Memorial Hermann, leaving the clinic's status in limbo. If no action is taken, Fagen said construction of the clinic would likely begin in 2026. If trustees approve the item presented during the Sept. 12 meeting at a later date, the district would enter into negotiations with Memorial Hermann to construct a temporary space for the clinic. Additionally, trustees could call for a vote to terminate the contract at a future meeting.