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.