A school board committee for the San Francisco Unified School District is considering distributing condoms throughout middle schools in the district starting with students in the sixth grade.
According to school officials, the decision came as the result of the Healthy Kids Survey, which found that some young students are sexually active, with 5% of middle-school aged participants saying they have had sex. According to the director of a youth center and clinic in San Francisco, their average client is 14 years old, reports Darren Sweeney for Fox 8.
Introduced by San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Richard Carranza to the Board of Education earlier this month, the policy change would come as part of the district's efforts to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among minors.
"Students would have face-to-face with a nurse or social worker, and decide if this is the time and place to begin a sexual relationship," said Kevin Gogin with the San Francisco Unified School District.
The committee voted on the proposal this last Monday night and will be sending it along to the full board for consideration. If approved, all middle school staff will receive training prior to the implementation of the program.
Condoms are supplied by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, coming packaged alongside educational and instructional materials. Students who receive the condoms would be required to meet with a school social worker or district nurse first, writes Laura Dudnick for The San Francisco Examiner.
While some parents approve of the plan, saying that children need to at least be safe if they are going to go behind their parents' backs and have sex, others argue that it is inappropriate to hand out condoms to young students and could in fact cause more students to become sexually active.
However, district officials maintain that the program will only encourage healthy decision making, adding that there is currently no research to support the idea that handing out condoms increases sexual activity.
The policy to distribute condoms to high school students was first adopted by the board in 1991. That program was amended in 1996 to allow parents the option of excluding their child. School board member Kevin Gogin said that the program had helped to reduce instances of sexual activity, as well as the number of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancies.
The new program would not only make condoms available to middle school students, but would also eliminate the exemption option. However, annual program notifications would still be given out to parents.
Some board members felt such a program could be life-changing for some students.
"I was sexually active as a teen, had kids at 16 and 17," board trustee Shamann Walton said. "I love my children to death, but programs like this help kids make healthy, responsible choices."
Meanwhile, Commissioner Rachel Norton, who is also on the committee set to discuss the new policy, said that while she does have some questions about the program, she believes handing out condoms could encourage students to practice safer sex. She added that as the results of the survey imply, young students are engaging in sexual acts, and they should be as prepared and educated as possible beforehand.