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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Condoms & Kids

by folkbum

The news is out:
After an hour and a half of spirited public testimony late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, a Milwaukee Board of School Directors committee voted in favor of a proposal that would allow for the limited distribution of male condoms in many of the city's public high schools.

The communicable disease prevention program--which passed the Committee on Innovation/School Reform in a 5-0 vote and now will go to the full board--was recommended by the admininstration to address the high rate of sexually transmitted infections among teenagers.
This is, of course, the age group that I deal with every day. I cannot speak to the prevalence of STDs among my students--I'll have to trust the research on that one that suggests they're widespread--but I can say this. Among the students I teach right now, I think I have more parents and parents-to-be than I have ever had before. Bot boys and girls talk freely about the children they have, and I have at least four pregnant girls right now. It certainly seems to me that somewhere these students are picking up on the notion that sex is okay and when they are doing it, they are doing it unprotected.

Which is not to say that MPS is encouraging the sex. Despite protestations and implications of the local righty commentariat (examples 1, 2), MPS does teach and reinforce the notion that abstinence at their age is the best and only reasonable course of action. In class yesterday, in fact, when students brought the matter up because they had heard the news, that was the first thing I added to the discussion--that none of them should be having sex anyway. Of course, they don't listen to me when I tell them that their essays must be written in multiple paragraphs, so I don't have a lot of faith that my insistence on their abstinence will have much of an effect, either.

But what I like in particular about this particular plan is that the condoms are not, in fact, freely distributed. There are plenty of places around town where the condoms are indeed just grab-and-go. However, should this plan go through, before any MPS student pick up a condom at school, they will have to talk to the school nurse about their intended behavior, its risks, and alternatives including not doing it. Ultimately, that may discourage some students from getting the condoms, sure; but I hope that the program will tie the acquisition of condoms to critical questions about why students want to engage in this behavior and whether it's the right thing to do. At least moreso than just having it lectured at them in health class every year.

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