After a long, and sometimes heated debate, the Rochester City School District has voted to make condoms available in city high schools. The vote was hardly unanimous – 4:3 –with many differing opinions on the matter.
Beliefs aside, the truth of the issue remains – abstinence education just wasn’t working. Statistically, the average age people lose their virginity in the United States today is between 15 and 17 and most teenagers are likely to have sex before the age of 18 (PDF). Sure, we know all the fear factors – unplanned pregnancy, STIs, – but when was the last time you told a teenager not to do something and you received an appreciative response of “you know, you’re right. I think I won’t”?
High school is a scary place, one you could not pay me to revisit. I’ll spare you the gory details of my first time, but we did have a condom – one of those LifeStyle condoms in what resembles a restaurant butter container we had received from a friend probably a year in advance. Why? Because buying condoms is embarrassing when you’re a junior in high school. What if I see one of my parents’ friends? What if I see a teacher? Maybe we’ll just forget the condom all together and pull out. What if I can pick some up at school and don’t have to worry about all this?
I was 24 the day my dad passed away and we made it that entire time having never spoken about sex even once. My step-mother did, once, on his behalf. The entirety of it was “Your dad assumes you either have or you will. As long as you’re being smart about it, he doesn’t ever want to hear about it. Do you have any questions?” My mom did give me the sex talk once – after I had finished both college and grad school and my boyfriend and I had already decided on getting an apartment together. My parents were both very attentive, very up-to-date with the times, and very protective of me, so it makes no sense why they would delay (or in my dad’s case, flat-out avoid) this talk, right? Not really. Parents dread giving “the talk” just about as much as kids dread hearing it – there’s no amount of anything in this world that can turn that into a cozy little chat.
Say what you will about the Rochester City School District, but they’ve just taken the one most uncomfortable, yet most important parent/child talk in existence and made it easy – easy because they’re offering to do all of it. Before a high school student can receive condoms, he or she must go through several educational classes and counseling regarding sexual health, emotions, and possible consequences. Of course parents can opt their student out of these classes if they’re uncomfortable with it or really disagree with Rochester City School District’s stance – but the option for it is there.
For something that has been taboo in so many classrooms (and sometimes, so many homes) across the nation, RCSD’s decision has definitely raised a lot of questions. However, according to many studies, high school condom availability programs have not led to increased sexual activity among high school students, but have led to improved condom use among high school males. If they’re going to do it anyway, what more can you ask for? Can’t argue with statistics. Time will tell where Rochester will fall in future studies. In the mean time, best of luck to Rochester City School District in their new endeavor.