BUFFALO –It’s creepy to think that government (even public school districts) may have a legitimate need to inspect the genitalia of private citizens.
But apparently that’s the case for some K-12 students who want to play high school contact sports, but may lack the physical development necessary to participate.
Schools typically use a process called Tanner Screening, which measures children’s sexual development to determine if they are capable of playing certain sports. They measure boys for pubic hair and genital development and girls for pubic hair and breast development.
The measurements are done through observation by the attending physician.
If it’s necessary for the safety of children, so be it.
But schools should be careful with the way they apply this invasive screening.
A Buffalo mother attended a district school board meeting Wednesday, complaining that her daughter was taken by surprise by a school nurse who wanted to view her genitals during an athletic physical exam.
The girl refused to expose herself.
“(The nurse) told her I want you to pull your pants down, so I can check your pubic hair, my daughter said excuse me,” the mom, Edie Harris, was quoted as saying by WGRZ.com.
Obviously Harris’ daughter had the courage and self-confidence to object to a situation that made her uncomfortable. We can only imagine how many kids out there are taken by surprise at the request to expose their genitals, and cooperate with the process despite their discomfort, just because an adult told them to do it.
That sort of trauma is unnecessary, particularly in an era when you can’t pick up a local newspaper, anywhere in the nation, without reading about teachers or other school employees sexually molesting students.
Kids know it goes on all the time, and they have every right to be wary of any school employee who requests to view their naked bodies.
Harris offered the school board some very good advice.
She said parents in the district should be notified before the screening is done.
That makes total sense, because nobody should be allowed to examine a minor’s naked body without the permission of a responsible parent or guardian, at least in non-emergency situations. And if parents are notified about the need for the screening, they can calmly explain it to their children and mentally prepare them for it.
Informed parents would also have the option of having the screening done by a private family physician in a much more comfortable setting.
Harris also said parents should have the option of being present for the screening. That’s another no-brainer.
New York state guidelines say it’s preferable to have another adult present during the exam, and that students should be allowed to keep their undergarments in place.
It doesn’t sound like either of those guidelines were going to be followed when Harris’ daughter went to see the nurse.
Meanwhile, our admittedly limited research suggests that as far back as the 1980s, pediatricians were developing a new form of screening where kids can test their own grip strength and do a self-assessment of their own sexual development, which “may obviate the need for physician assessment of Tanner stage …”
K-12 educators should know that many youngsters are naturally shy and insecure about their bodies, particularly when it comes to sexual development.
They should also know that kids have every reason to be wary of any adult seeking access to their private parts.
In short, there’s a good and sensitive method to handle this important process, as well as a clumsy, ham-handed way that leaves children and parents uncomfortable and upset.
Leave it to government schools to go about it in the most impersonal and humiliating manner possible, thereby creating controversies that could be easily avoidable.
And if it’s necessary, why do schools go about gathering the information is such a boorish manner?
That’s what a Buffalo mother wants to know, and she took her question to the school board Wednesday night.
The mom, Edie Harris, told the board that her 11th grade daughter was recently asked to show her genitalia as part of a school physical exam. The girls refused.
The medical director for the school district explained that the girl was asked to participate in the Tanner Screening process, which is recommended by the state of New York “to determine a child’s level of sexual maturation.”
The idea behind the screening is apparently to determine if children signing up for contact school sports are physically mature enough to participate.
If there ever was an example of government overreach, this is it.
First of all, checking out how much pubic hair a teen has is not necessarily an accurate measure of sexual development. Some people shave it.
Secondly, these educators must know that youngsters tend to be shy and insecure about their bodies, particularly their private areas. Forcing them to disrobe in front of an adult and display their genitals is asking a lot. Doing it with nobody else in the room is inexcusable and just asking for trouble.
It doesn’t sound like those guidelines were followed when Harris’ daughter was asked to disrobe.
Generation after generation of human beings have grown up, produced healthy children and lived their lives without having the rate of their sexual development measured by the government.