The second largest public school system in Massachusetts will make condoms available to students as young as 12 with the start of the new school year next week. The condom availability in the Springfield schools is part of a comprehensive effort to combat high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
The Springfield Public Schools will be mailing letters and making telephone calls to the parents and guardians of thousands of children in the middle schools and high schools to let them know about the new condom availability policy. Azell Cavaan, Chief Communications Officer for the Springfield Public Schools says the policy will also be publicized more broadly, and detailed in the parent-student handbook.
Starting September 1st condoms will be available to students from school nurses. The letters stress that parents and guardians who do not want their children to have access to condoms can “ opt out” by returning a form.
School Committee member Denise Hurst praised the outreach effort.
Condom availability is part of a “Comprehensive Reproductive Health Policy” that was approved by the school committee by a 4 to 3 vote last April.
The policy and the plan to implement it were developed jointly by the Springfield School Department and a mayoral task force that was created a few years ago to work on reducing teen pregnancies. Springfield had the fourth highest teen birth rate in the state, according to the most recent available statistics.
School Committee member Antonette Pepe, who voted against the policy last April said she finds it “ unnerving” that condoms could be given out in school to 12 year olds, but she said the implementation of the program appears sound.
Pepe said she wants the condom distributions tracked, anonymously, with quarterly reports provided to the school committee.
Neither the Massachusetts Department of Secondary Education nor the Massachusetts Department of Public Health keep a record of condom availability programs in the public schools.