SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco middle-schoolers could soon have access to condoms at school as part of a proposal currently under consideration by district board members.
San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza suggested at a Jan. 12 board meeting that the district’s middle schools distribute condoms to students as young as 11 years old, whether or not their parents want them to have access, the San Francisco Examiner reports.
The proposal, to be discussed at a Feb. 1 augmented curriculum and program committee meeting, would also eliminate the options for parents to opt their children out of the program, which was first implemented in district high schools in 1991. District officials included the ability of high school student parents to opt their child out of the program in 1996, according to the news site.
“Condoms are provided to the schools from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and are packaged with educational and instructional materials,” the Examiner reports. “Middle school students would need to meet with a school social worker or district nurse before receiving condoms.”
The goal, Carranza said, is the curb sexually transmitted diseases and prevent teen pregnancies.
“I think that to the extent that our Healthy Kids Survey finds that kids are actually engaging in sexual behavior in middle school, then we want to make sure that they’re as safe as they can be, and as well-educated as they ban be about the implications of that,” Rachel Norton, commissioner on the program committee, told the news site.
San Francisco schools, of course, aren’t the first to dole out condoms to preteens.
In a New York Daily News article last summer about new condom demonstrations in New York City high schools, the news site notes “city middle schools and high schools began requiring sex education for students in 2011, and many schools have distributed free condoms to students for years.”
The year prior, the National Review pointed to a growing number of schools offering condoms to students before high school.
The news site highlighted the Gervais School District in Oregon, which implemented a policy in 2014 to offer condoms to students in sixth through 12th grades.
“Over the past few decades, teen pregnancy in our community has remained somewhat constant, but higher than the board felt comfortable with,” Gervais superintendent Rick Hensel wrote in a blog at the time, according to Reuters.
“Every few years, a middle school student either becomes pregnant or is associated with a pregnancy,” he wrote. “The board felt that the curriculum should reach the students of the middle school.”
Experts on the issue seem to be split on the potential benefits of handing out condoms to 11- and 12-year-olds.
“The evidence clearly shows it doesn’t encourage sexual behavior but actually helps to delay it,” University of Michigan professor of nursing Antonia Villarruel told Reuters.
Amita Vyas, Director of Maternal and Child Health at George Washington University, believes giving condoms to students in “sixth grade seems incredibly young.”
“We really don’t see high rates of sexual activity when we are looking at 13 and under,” Vyas said.
The kinds of condoms distributed also seems to be an important factor.
In Boston, parents were “horrified” to learn the condoms given to students included provocative phrases like “one lucky lady,” “hump one,” and “tasty one,” according to the Boston Globe.
“Right idea, wrong execution,” mother Stephanie Bode Ward told the news site.
In New York City schools, officials took heat in 2013 after distributing a wide variety of condoms to students, including “Rough Rider Studded,” “King XL,” “Extra Strength,” “Ultra Sensitive,” “Ultra Thin,” “Ribbed,” and “Assorted Flavors,” the New York Daily News reports.
“As far as varieties go, it’s ridiculous,” Tracy Woodall, parent of a then 12-year-old, told the news site. “But I guess they need to know whether it will fit them. These young kids are very mature, and sex is just a norm now.”