Oregon district halts condom giveaway to 6th graders amid community uproar

August 1, 2014

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Ben Velderman Ben Velderman

Ben was a communications specialist for EAG from 2010 until August 2014. He is a former member of the Michigan Education Association.
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GERVAIS, Ore. – Unhappy parents have forced an Oregon school board to re-think its plan to begin handing out condoms to students – sixth-graders on up – when school starts up again this fall.

During a May meeting, school board members approved a plan in which trained teachers (presumably health teachers) would hand out prophylactics after first having “a discussion with the student,” StatesmanJournal.com reports. Some of those students could have been as young as 11 years old.

But when parents and community members caught wind of the “condoms-upon-request” plan, they flooded a June board meeting to express their displeasure.

“Some members of the public were offended that schools were stepping into the parents’ territory of addressing their children’s sexuality, according to minutes of the June board meeting,” StatesmanJournal.com reports.

“Others said condoms were not an effective solution to the problem. A few said students may need mental health help, not condoms. Another said abstinence should be promoted, not condoms. Many said they wanted help finding an alternative solution. No one spoke in support of the decision.”

On Wednesday, the Gervais school board voted to halt the plan until more research could be done.

Just-hired Superintendent Matt Henry “said his research found that other districts don’t put the responsibility of giving contraceptives to students on teachers. Instead, they might be referred to the health clinic, a counselor or an off-campus partner,” the news site reports.

“We would be the only district in Oregon if we proceeded to implement this as it is laid out in September,” said Henry.

The superintendent “suggested bringing in a consultant to help advise the board on how to go forward, and while there was no official vote, board members agreed,” adds StatesmanJournal.com.

High school principal Mike Solem noted at Wednesday’s meeting that students were “beating down teachers’ doors” asking for condoms when the plan was announced this spring.

Solem’s anecdote fits with the revelation that 5 percent of the district’s middle and high school females became pregnant during the recently completed school year.

Board members say they want a more comprehensive plan, beyond condoms, to address teen pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, StatesmanJournal.com reports.

Whatever they decide, they can be assured the Gervais community will be watching closely.

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