Parents, you’re irrelevant—at least in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
The school board there voted this month to give condoms–free for the asking and of course we won’t tell your parents—to elementary school students, regardless of age. That’s right, no age limit. We’re talking grade school here. Even a six-year-old could wander into the nurse’s office, ask for and receive condoms, and the new policy PROHIBITS the school personnel from telling parents what’s going on.
Why on earth would the school board approve such a policy?
Arrogance. They know better than parents what’s good for kids. And what’s good for kids, in their view, is facilitating “safer” sex—never mind the pesky data that shows teen sex—let alone sex for 12 and unders–is rife with harm and exploitation. More on that in a minute.
Beth Singer, the school superintendent, defends the decision saying, “In Provincetown it’s the correct policy in order to protect kids.” She goes on, justifying the decision with a fatalistic shrug: “We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?”
Under the policy, that omniscient public servant—the school nurse—gets to decide what’s best for your child. No matter if she barely knows his or her name or with whom the child anticipates having sex. (An older teen? An adult?) If a child requests a condom, she offers “counseling” and provides birth control. Unlike the parents, the nurse can even refuse the child’s request for a condom, depending on her judgment. Parents don’t even get a courtesy call.
Part of the problem with the condom-pushing crowd, and sex educators in general, is that they all suffer from a feigned agnosticism when it comes to sex. They can’t presume to say whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing for a child (or a teen) to have sex. “Counseling” takes the Planned Parenthood approach that tells kids, “We believe you’re the only one who can decide what’s right for you.” So when teens—or little kids—have sex, it’s just a “fact” that school boards deal with by doling out discrete little packages. They are dead wrong on this.
Consider this data from the Kaiser Family Foundation: the younger a child begins sexual activity, the greater the age difference between partners is likely to be. (Can we say “child sexual abuse” or exploitation?). At least a third of teens report feeling pressured to do unwanted sexual acts—common sense tells us that the 12 and under set is even more vulnerable to pressure and manipulation. In spite of widespread condom awareness and use, STDs are rampant among teens: adolescents are more physiologically vulnerable to sexually transmitted infection than are adults. And little kids? It’s gut-churning to think of their immature bodies playing host to grown-up diseases. They can’t possibly even understand the long-term implications for their fertility or sexual and mental health. (Sexually active teens are more likely to suffer from substance abuse problems, increased depression, and suicide.)
And the best a Provincetown school nurse has got to offer is a packaged panacea? A condom that does little to protect from physical harm and nothing to protect from emotional or psychological wounds? Parents need to insist not only on the right to guide their children in sexual matters but also on a school policy that teaches the truth. Schools must stop pretending that they “can’t say” whether adolescent (or child) sexual activity is a good thing or a bad thing. The “you decide what’s best” message to kids, when it comes to sexuality, is an utter failure. Providing condoms—and shutting parents out of the conversation—ensures only that children will suffer more harm, not less.
Arrogance is expensive. And in Provincetown, unfortunately, it’s children who will pay the price.
(c) 2010 Mary Rice Hasson