Condoms are now being made to students as young as first grade in one Massachusetts school. Apparently this story is now getting some play on Fox News (no, I don’t watch that drivel, the headline and link was re-Tweeted by someone in my twitter stream), but I first heard about this story on the Atlanta-Journal Constitution’s Momania blog.
Because it is getting play on Faux News, expect the conservatives to get up in arms about it. Like clockwork.
We’ve actually got two different issues raised in this one story. One is whether schools should give away condoms at all. The other is whether first grade is appropriate for this.
This whole episode is a perfect illustration of the need for separation of school and state. If that happened and parents had to pay for their own children’s schooling, they could pay to put their children in schools where condoms were given away or not, based on the parents’ wishes, without infringing on the rights of other parents who disagree. As is, no matter what decision this school makes, it is infringing on some parents’ rights by forcing them to pay to support a program they do not agree with or by denying them services they want their school to provide.
For the record, I believe sex education should be done at home, and nowhere else. That is one of the most personal decisions a person makes, and it should be the parent that teaches the child about sex – not government schools and not their youth pastor. In an environment where school and State were separated, I would not pay to send my child to a school – of any form – that violated that basic rule.
That said, for those that see my personal beliefs here as a cop-out, I offer these thoughts:
1) Should schools give away condoms? Honestly, I think it prudent – but I think the student should have to go to a counselor and ask for them. They should not be simply distributed to every kid, nor should there be some kind of “goodie basket” where any kid can simply take one. Having the counselors give them out would also be both a chance to potentially discuss any issues the student may have as well as somewhat of a cost control. Again, based on my own interactions with students, a teacher/school is NOT going to be able to stop a kid from having sex – nor is it their place (again, it is the parents’). The best a teacher/school can hope to do is mitigate the damage, and having a trained counselor give away condoms upon request is probably the best way to do exactly that.
2) Is first grade appropriate for this? Part of me wants to give a vehement “no” to this, and ultimately I’m going to lean that direction. But I also know the sixth grade students (10-12 years old) that I taught, and they came into my classroom already being sexually charged. Since I saw them on their first day of middle school, that means that their pubescence and all that this entails began while they were still in elementary school. Hence, while first grade may be too young (I hope puberty isn’t beginning at 6 years old these days!), elementary school in general probably is not – whether we like it or not.
When it comes to sex in general – no matter the age of the individuals in question – there are no easy answers. Add in the complexities of childhood/adolescence into the mix, and things become infinitely more complex. Hence the ultimate adage in education:
One size does not fit all.
<p><span style=”color: #888888;”><em>Written by Jeff Sexton. </em></span><span style=”font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; font-size: 10pt;”><span style=”font-family: Verdana; color: #000000; font-size: 10pt;”> </span></span><em><span style=”color: #888888;”>Jeff Sexton co-owns the political blog <a href=”http://www.SWGAPolitics.com”>SWGAPolitics.com</a> and is former chairman for the Libertarian Party of Southwest Georgia</span></em></p>