You read that right. Condoms. For elementary school students.
The Governor of Massachusetts is calling upon the superintendent of the Provincetown school district to reconsider a new school policy that allows kids as young as elementary age to receive free condoms without the permission or knowledge of their parents.
The policy, which is set to go into effect in the fall, will require students who request condoms to first get counseling, which will include information about abstinence. (The superintendent, for her part, has noted that the policy would certainly be exercised carefully; if an elementary-age student asked for a condom, the child would be asked many questions and the request would most likely be denied.)
The story behind the startling age limit (or lack of age limit) speaks volumes about where our society is today. Some school board members had pointed out that limiting the policy to high school students, which was once proposed, would have meant that fifth or sixth grade students who were sexually active wouldn't be getting counseling or protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies.
As unsettling as the idea of elementary-school age kids having sex may be, the reality is that some kids that age are indeed experimenting, and in some cases may even be having sex. I grew up in middle-class, average neighborhoods in the suburbs and I can tell you that I definitely heard stories, both in elementary and middle school, of kids who had "boyfriends" or "girlfriends" and were rumored to be having sex. By the time we reached high school, I knew of a couple of girls who had unwanted pregnancies and were going to give their babies up for adoption (believe me, it was a far cry from "Juno," which depicted a best-case scenario of a teen pregnancy).
The issue, at heart, comes down to who should have the final say in whether or not a child receives a condom and counseling about sex and how old the child should be before he or she is exposed to such things. Should it be parents or school?
I know one thing for sure: As my son enters fourth grade in the fall, I know that somewhere between now and high school, he will start to transition from the world of Star Wars Lego toys to more talk about girls and sex. How I prepare him for that transition is my job. And if he ever needs a condom -- and I will do everything in my power to make sure he knows that there are a million reasons why he should wait at least till the end of high school -- I hope he comes to me first.
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