Governor of Massachusetts: Rethink condoms in grade schools

Now, the governor of Massachusetts is entering the emotional debate about making condoms available to all schoolchildren in the Provincetown school district under a new safe sex program. This has become a national issue after the school board there decided it did not want to limit its policy to high school students since there could be younger kids who are sexually active.

Superintendent Beth Singer, who wrote the policy approved by the Cape Cod community’s school board last week, explained that, “The intent is to protect kids. We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?”

In an interview with the Boston Globe, Singer said that if an elementary school student requests a condom, the nurse would ask the student a series of questions and almost certainly deny them.

This is one of those stories that gets people riled up over what seems to be a misreading of the intent. The school committee is not condoning early sexual activity, but is acknowledging that it does occur.

(I have been surprised at the number of adults who have told me they first had sex at age 13. These are folks who got involved with older teens, which is why I am not a fan of middle schoolers or high school freshmen of either sex dating “up.”)

As one of the school committee members noted that there are, unfortunately, kids who are sexually active in middle school.

“I was the one who said, ‘Well, you never know,’” said School Committee Chairman Peter Grosso in the Globe. “It’s very possible that a fifth- or sixth-grader would be getting involved in sexual activity.”

As to requiring parental notification, that would probably cause most kids not to seek the condoms. So, which is the better situation? Kids having sex and not making use of the free condoms to avoid having their parents be notified or kids having sex and using the condoms?

And is this one of those areas in which schools just can’t win?

No one wants schools to give out condoms to kids but no one wants pregnant eighth graders, either. (I did a story once a special program for adolescent mothers, and I was shocked to meet a girl who became pregnant at age 11. She and the baby were living with her mother, who had a bevy of serious problems herself.  The girl was in a program to learn parenting skills as it was clear that she would be taking care of both her baby and her mother. )

According to the Associated Press:

BOSTON – Gov. Deval Patrick used his bully pulpit Thursday to call the superintendent of a Cape Cod school district and urge her to revise a new policy allowing even elementary school students to receive free condoms without the knowledge of their parents.

The new policy makes condoms available to all Provincetown public school students and takes effect in the fall. Under the policy, any student requesting a condom from a school nurse must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence.

Patrick, a Democrat seeking re-election this year against a field including two conservative opponents, told The Associated Press on Thursday he objected not only to the age of the students covered by the policy, but also to a provision prohibiting their parents from being told about any request for prophylactics — and from having their objections overrule a distribution.

33 comments Add your comment


June 25th, 2010
8:59 am


first the pregnancy pact…and now this…


Chris Murphy, Atlanta, GA

June 25th, 2010
9:44 am

I guess you’d have to know Provincetown to know how melon-heads get to run a school system.


June 25th, 2010
9:50 am

So, this Superintendent wrote a policy that hands out condoms to ELEMENTARY students, will not inform the parents if the kid requests a condom, and will hand out condoms despite objections of the parents.

What’s next? Schools distributing needles to intravenous drug users?

Ole Guy

June 25th, 2010
10:54 am

Hey, I’ve got one hell ofan idea…hand 5th graders the keys to the car, weapons and ammo. Why. hells bells, they’re gonna experiment anyway, right? Might as well control their experimentation.

The adults behind these decisions, I’m sure, are so confident in their flaky decisions that they are willing to include their kids in this “experiment”…they should all, every last damn one of em, be tried for contributing to the delinquencies of minors.


June 25th, 2010
10:55 am

Just keep sticking your head in the sand folks..


June 25th, 2010
11:09 am

Curiously, in a supposed anti-incumbent year, most of the departing are not retiring but seeking higher office. We may recycle more than we replace. The bad news is that a frustrating 114 seats still have but one contestant. Two of them aren’t even incumbents, meaning they will affect state policy without being vetted by voters. And I have to think that we’d be better off if many had run instead for the Legislature — and cut down on the number running unopposed. Georgia’s problems are numerous. They aren’t going away. There’s too much stale thinking at the Capitol, on both sides of the aisle. New voices would be welcome.


June 25th, 2010
11:22 am

Another reason there should not be ANY government schools. All schools should be private and they should be forced to compete for students.

Parents should be given vouchers and be able to select their school. Let the $ follow the students and give parents a choice.


June 25th, 2010
11:29 am

If they would focus on giving condoms to hispanics and blacks we would be fine. They are the ones who have 10 kids each even though they have no money. Gotta love the free money the government gives them.


June 25th, 2010
11:32 am

Students do get pregnant in middle school and sometimes late elementary. I’m pretty sure most of those students have troubled home lives, and I’m not sure if they’d be requesting condoms from the school nurse, but there is an issue here.

Understanding Atlanta

June 25th, 2010
11:36 am

I think we’re missing the point. I knew students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grade that were sexually active. I knew students in my middle school that had gotten pregnant. Did their parents know they were sexually active? Would they have cared? Who really knows. But when your parents are 27-28 and you’re 13 and don’t talk about sex what message does that send.
There is a broad assumption that all parents talk openly with their children about sex or even the mistakes they made in starting to have sex too early. If this does nothing but increase awareness of what goes on in many elementary and middle schools it’s a start. But to think these students are too young or that every parent is like you and care enough to talk or even know what to say is unfair to the children with un-involved parents.
Though it is sad, I’ve kids as young as 12 have a baby and their parents were the same way. I once overhead some HS counselors talking about how about 15 girls from the middle school were pregnant or had a kid that were coming over to the HS. Maybe we should take a visit to these middle schools before we rush to judgment over what schools should do, if anything, to curtail this epidemic.

David S

June 25th, 2010
11:37 am

Logic. Vouchers will only allow the government to stick its nose into the business of private school operations. In order to take the voucher money every school will be forced to meet certain requirements and implement policies that will once again be driven by political pressures and unelected bureaucrats rather than the wishes of the parents in the marketplace.

Be careful what you wish for. Government is a failure. It certainly isn’t going to give up its control of stolen tax money lightly. It will only spread its failure to the private schools and then there will be no choices left for those who cannot homeschool.

head in the sand

June 25th, 2010
11:40 am

Most ppl forget what it was like to be young and dumb. Lost my virginity at the ripe old age of 13 (8th grade). If I could have had someone to talk to about safe sex; abstinece; and/or just someone to answer my questions. I may have actually waited till marriage or at least a few more years.

So many adults and young ppl will say SEX is dirty. When did sex become dirty? Sex between consenting partners (adults hopefully) involved in a loving monogamous relationship is a great thing.

Now, I would not give condoms to elementary kids but a serious discussion about middle school and up would be great. Maybe it would even lead to parents actually talking to their own children about drugs, sex, ect…


June 25th, 2010
11:45 am

It’s not uncommon to have high school students who have grandmothers in their late 30s or early 40s. You do the math.


June 25th, 2010
11:47 am

I was a teacher at a high poverty school in North Carolina. We had a nine year old turn up pregnant. Her boyfriend was 14.


June 25th, 2010
11:55 am

Parents who adamantly oppose this usually have the kids who need it the most.


June 25th, 2010
12:07 pm

And we are supposed to believe that condoms in Massachusetts is a more pressing issue than systemic lack of support in matters of discipline for teachers in Georgia?

Well if the readers won’t call you on it…

Ms obvious

June 25th, 2010
12:10 pm

Once worked in a middle school where we had 5 pregnant 6th graders. I’ve known too many 10 and 11 year olds who were not virgins. Its sad and sick, but there are some neighborhoods where serious sex talks need to start in 4th grade.

Ole Guy

June 25th, 2010
12:11 pm

What’s going on here? As in previous remarks on my belief in introducing controled fear/anxiety in the daily lives of kids, my early teaching was along the lines that penetrative sex would surely lead to “having to marry the girl”. This, by a law which I understood, would have barred me from admittance to the US Military Academy at West Point, a goal which, in my early “yout”, was paramount. For this very reason, my “best girl friends” had names like Harriet Lickman, Gina Grope, and Fonda Peters.

Once again, the Ole Guy has let slip what a pig he was in his youth. However, the over-riding message is that kids can be allowed, through fear and anxiety, to determine their own course in life. While the natural and normal urges of youth cannot be denied and should not be ignored, given the appropriate mix of fear, anxiety, and ambition, kids will find a way. HOWEVER, WITHOUT THE ELEMENT OF FEAR/ANXIETY IN THE KID’S LIFE, IT’S SIMPLY A CRAP SHOOT.

Carolyn Jolly

June 25th, 2010
1:11 pm

When will people learn that condoms are not the devil and having a condom doesn’t make someone have sex??!! I applaud this aggressive policy to make safe sex practices available to anyone who seeks it! It’s about time we open our eyes and realize our children……even the younger ones ARE HAVING SEX!! With our without condoms! If school administrators in my hometown had such foresight….perhaps we wouldn’t have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation.

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norcross schools

June 25th, 2010
1:24 pm

This should not even be on the table for discussion. Parent’s need to step up and educate their children about not having premarital sex. This is why I have my children in a private Christian School. I refuse to give up my responsibilities when or hoe my child learns about sex.


June 25th, 2010
1:42 pm

My former MIL became a grandmother at 33. When her son (my husband) and I had our first baby at 25, we were considered “old folks.” My family, on the other hand, was scandalized that I had had a baby so “young.” My grandmother became a grandmother at 60. I became a grandmother at 55–again, rushing things, altho my daughter was about to turn 31.

When I worked in adult literacy, I had a grandmother, 30, her daughter 15, and her daughter had a baby (another girl). Guess where they will be in 15 more years?

I think some of us are hiding our heads in the sand. We DO have 5th graders having sex; perhaps even 4th graders. I mentioned on Momania that I walked into a restroom anteroom and found a five year old boy “doing it” with a hole in the wall!

Teacher Reader

June 25th, 2010
2:03 pm

Again, government is telling parents what is right for their children. Another reason, why I choose to homeschool. It is my job as a parent to teach my son about sex and sexuality, not the school system. Schools can’t teach what they should be correctly, what kind of job do you think they’ll do with sex?


June 25th, 2010
5:11 pm

Teacher Reader: It is also the parents’ job to provide food, transportation, health care, counseling, and values education. Yet, to whom do we give these jobs? Yes, your tax-paid school system. I know of NO teacher who wants these jobs. We want parents to do theirs. In some schools, their biggest problem is helicopter parents. In others, it is whatever the opposite is. Hands off? Disengaged? Absent?

Ole Guy

June 25th, 2010
6:18 pm

This is exactly what happens when kids are raised…not reared, raised like a herd of cattle…to believe they have birthright authority to make their own decisions.


June 25th, 2010
11:23 pm

I think it’s interesting to note the difference in opinion between groups. I belong to a teacher forum. Every teacher on there is horrified at the idea of elementary schools handing out condoms. It is not, repeat not, our job.

And on here, the general public is telling us that people’s heads are in the sand, and to “hold on. It’s not a bad idea.”

Are you nuts? Why is it that public school teachers have to raise your child? If kids are having sex in 5th grade, that’s on you. So you, parent, need to hand your child a condom. I need to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Teacher Reader

June 25th, 2010
11:30 pm

Cat Lady, I am convinced that our government does not want parents to be parents. By slowly taking over parent responsibilities of feeding children breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner, by giving sex talks and offering condoms, by providing free health care, and a mediocre education at best, the government is setting up the people to be taken care. The government does not want our children to think for themselves or for parents to do too much parenting.

I was a teacher up until the end of this school year. I have witnessed helicopter parents, and I have had parents who do not give a crap and are more worried about having a good time, than their own children. This went on when I was in school 20 some years ago as well. However, when I was in school, my school didn’t offer free lunches or serve breakfast. My sex talk at school was a box of different contraceptives passed around with a giggling teacher who was embarrassed.

My parents taught me values, and I waited to have sex until I was married at the age of 26. I did not grow up in an overly Christian home, but I knew of the consequences, and I did not want to be a parent, so I waited. My parents were not perfect, far from it, but they were parents. They were not off trying to have a good time or trying to be my friend. They were home, when I came home. They checked on me to make sure I was where I said I would be. They knew my friends and their parents.

The problem is that far too few parents really want to be a parent. Working full time and trying to be a decent parent is a lot of work and requires great sacrifices. I know. I did not feel like I was being a good mother or a good teacher. I left teaching to focus on my children and not another people’s children. Until parents choose to be true parents and raise their children with moral and ethical values, or the government decides to get out of the morality and ethical business, programs like this and others will continue. I am tired of government agencies saying that programs like this are helping our children. I do not see how. They are giving the children a green light to do something, that they do not have the maturity to understand the consequences of their actions.

I want the government to allow me to be a parent and not to force their morals on myself and my children. Our society does not allow children to be children. Go to a store and look at the provocative clothes sold to young girls. I am a weirdo by some, because I strictly monitor the very little tv that my children watch. We read, play board games, play outside, make crafts, talk, and do other quality activities to spend our time.

I want my children to be able to think for themselves and make solid decisions in their life. I also want them to know what true love is, how to take care of themselves to be healthy, how to make good food choices, and the like.

Our government has its hand in just about every part of our lives, and this is not what our Founding Fathers intended. It is what they fought against.


June 26th, 2010
10:00 am

This may not be a reason to close government schools, but it’s sure as hell a reason not to send your kid to one, if you can avoid it.

Devil's Advocate

June 26th, 2010
3:35 pm

Indeed, the biggest problem in our schools is poverty, and the troubled family situations that stem from it.

The only thing that can even hope to stem this tide is improving the level of education that we provide to all students.

Yet, teachers and others on this blog continually want to put the cart before the horse. No wonder we are in such a sad state.


June 26th, 2010
5:54 pm

@TeacherReader, “I am convinced that our government does not want parents to be parents. By slowly taking over parent responsibilities of feeding children breakfast, lunch, and sometimes dinner, by giving sex talks and offering condoms, by providing free health care, and a mediocre education at best, the government is setting up the people to be taken care”?

Government took over those responsibilities for SOME parents because the parents abdicated them. If parents were doing their jobs, the government would have no need to step in.


June 27th, 2010
4:34 am

why not middle school and high school only why elementary school


June 27th, 2010
1:41 pm

Maureen Downey thinks that this story gets people riled up over “a misreading of intent.” ??? One of the stated intents is the give condoms to children (CHILDREN!!) even if their parents object. Also, many there wish these condoms could just be given out without any consultation at all. THESE ARE CHILDREN!! This is not an ‘emotional’ issue, it’s a moral issue, and a privacy issue regarding parent’s rights over their children versus the government. Disgusting.


June 27th, 2010
1:47 pm

Provincetown is the Lesbian Capital of the free world, and this is common thinking for the progressive lesbian community. Do what you want in your own backyard, but understand this is why other people can’t stand you. Most people are libertarian in that they believe everyone has a right to live as they wish as long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others, but the progressive lesbians have no intention of ever leaving other people alone. Try this in my school district and see what happens.