The San Francisco Unified School District school board has approved a unanimous measure that would make condoms available to middle school students, becoming the third district in California to have such a program.
School officials say the decision was made as a result of a survey showing that five percent of middle school students between sixth and eighth grade are sexually active and almost half of those students are not using protection. The "condom availability program" is also in use in Oakland and Los Angeles.
The plan is the next step in district's efforts to reduce sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy among minors. Students are currently able to buy condoms in a store without being questioned under California Family and Health and Safety codes. The new program will allow them the ability to obtain them for free at the nurse's office in their schools, writes Lisa Fernandez for NBC News.
Kevin Gogin, the district's director of safety and wellness, said that students will be required to ask for the condoms from a school professional. They will not simply be placed in baskets in the hallways.
Under the law, parents would not be notified of the request unless the school nurse determined there to be a "clear coercion, a marked age difference or the student's safety was in question." Parents will be notified on an annual basis about the program.
While some parents agree with the move, saying that children need to be speaking with an adult on the subject, other parents feel the program is inappropriate for such young students. "We have to sign a consent form for them to go on a field trip, but we don't need to know if they're getting a condom?" one parent said. Others said the program was too casual by offering students the ability to take a condom as needed, reports Nens Bolilan for The Parent Herald.
However, the San Francisco Board of Education stands by their decision, saying they only want to help students make healthy decisions.
"We want to engage students in discussions about their reproductive health so they are equipped to make healthy decisions," school district's director of safety and wellness Kevin Gogin said. "There is no research that supports providing condoms in schools increases sexual activity."
A policy to distribute condoms in district high schools was first adopted by the San Francisco school board in 1991. In 1996 the board amended the program to allow parents the right to opt out or exclude their child from the program.
The recent vote updates the language used in the district's condom distribution program so that parents are no longer able to opt their children out. The decision brings the program into compliance with state law, which allows minors to consent to medical care relating to treatment or prevention of a pregnancy.
Advocates for Youth reports that studies performed of high schools in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago found positive effects as a result of condom availability programs. The nonprofit also discovered that making condoms available to students did not cause an increase in sexual activity.