Opinion: Making Condoms Available for Grade Schoolers a Community Decision
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This story has generated a lot of comments, so I wanted to clarify my position: There is no insidious plot by the government to force children to start having sex.
Of course, it is disturbing to think of sexually active elementary school kids, but is it better for school officials to bury their heads in the sand or address the problem?
I don't think 6-year-olds should be given condoms, and the Provincetown officials who wrote the policy are not suggesting that they should be. According to published reports, the policy would make condoms available if students ask for them. Availability does not mean forced distribution. No one was planning on giving rubbers to kindergarteners. The new curriculum isn't crayons, crackers and condoms.
The unfortunate fact is that many children are having sex at a young age. Remember Alfie Patten and his girlfriend Chantelle Stedman? Patten was 12 years old when he slept with Stedman, who was 15. Stedman's mother reportedly told her young daughter to keep quiet about the other boys she had slept with. At the time, they were not certain Patten was the father, because Stedman had had multiple sex partners.
Maybe if someone had spoken to her or her boyfriends about using condoms, Stedman wouldn't have become a mother before starting high school. Maybe she would have waited until she was older to start having sex at all.
So, what is the right age to make birth control available to students? I honestly don't know. What I do know, however, is the question is more complex than it may seem. One ParentDish commenter says there are girls who get their periods as early as third grade. That alone does not make a girl sexually active, but it can lead her to ask questions. What if the girl is uncomfortable going to her parents for advice? What if she is being pressured by a boy at school to do something she isn't ready to do? Shouldn't she feel comfortable going to a school nurse and asking what is happening to her body?
Beth Singer (no relation) tells the Boston Globe that if a very young child were to visit the school nurse and request a condom, "we would deal with it in a professional and appropriate way." They would not simply hand the kid a pack of Trojans.
As for parental involvement, Provincetown residents had the chance to give their say when the committee held a televised forum on June 8 to debate the issue. According to the Globe, no one showed up.
Three weeks later, the story went national. When confronted by parents and politicians on both sides of the aisle (it's an election year), committee members responded to criticism and now may rewrite the rules so that condoms are only made available to older children.
Ask and ye shall receive, right?
The bottom line: This is a local issue, not a national one. If the community of Provincetown, Mass. wants to implement this policy, it has every right to do so. If there is a lesson to be learned from "condomgate," it's that if something is happening in your community that you don't like, get involved. Participate in the process.
Like the song says, you can't always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might get what you need.
Related: New British Sex Education Curriculum Would Include Younger Kids