The controversial new policy allows any student to get free condoms at school, even if that student is only 7 years old. And parents aren’t allowed to opt their kids out of the program. If kids want a condom, they get a condom.
Here’s the twist: Before any student can go home with a free condom, they must first talk to a school counselor and listen to advice on the benefits of abstinence.
The new policy is the brainstorm of the town’s health advisory committee and was approved unanimously by the school board on June 10. School board chairman Peter Grosso explains why there’s no age limit on the program. “The thing is, sexual activity starts younger and younger,” Grosso told the Boston Herald. “We don’t know what age that is. So we just said, ‘We’ll make it available to all of them.’ We didn’t want to pick an age, and I really don’t believe we’re going to get first-graders asking for a condom, as a practical matter.”
The policy is not without critics, of course. Conservative group Massachusetts Family Institute is appalled at the idea. “What’s next? Birth control pills?” asked Kris Mineau, head of the conservative group Massachusetts Family Institute, in the Boston Herald. Mineau said the group will support any parent who wants to take legal action.
I’m a strong advocate of early sex ed for kids, that is, honest and age-appropriate information early on. Fundamentally, I don’t think this program — despite the sensational headlines — will end up being any different than others that hand out condoms to kids at school. But there are two things that concern me: 1) Are they promoting condoms to kids in the lower grades? Or is it just a matter of, say, a sign on the wall in the nurse’s office? And 2) I always get a little nervous when parental input is totally disregarded.
Here’s what I think will happen: Some fourth or fifth grade kid will get brave enough to ask for a condom, listen to the speech, then they’ll take it out on the playground where a group of kids will gather around to see what’s inside.
But mostly, the kids who are going to be asking are probably going to be those who are having or are thinking about having sex, like a 14-year-old girl who doesn’t feel safe talking to her parents. This new policy provides her with someone she can talk to — has to talk to, in fact, if she wants her free condom. And maybe that person will say something that makes her think about what she’s about to do.
And no, I don’t think we’ll see any condoms being handed out to first graders.
I think the most interesting thing about this policy is that the school board refuses to let parents decide whether or not their kids can have condoms. And that’s probably where opponents will focus their fight.
What do you think about Provincetown’s policy?