Let’s talk about sex: Charter schools should make condoms available to students

In 2013 Fairview Academy, a charter school in Minneapolis, adopted a condom availability program for its students to promote student health. In partnership with Nu-Vo Condom, the school allows students to request free condoms without parent approval. Along with the condom, students receive a “Nu-Vo Cares” pamphlet that educates students on sexually transmitted diseases, abstinence and other related information to educate the students as well. This charter school has taken initiative to protect and educate its students by freely having condoms available. In doing so, it joined traditional school districts in Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles that have similar programs. As a charter high school serving one of the urban school districts, should Port of Los Angeles High School (POLAHS) implement a condom availability program?

Newsflash POLAHS: teens have sex. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, 47 percent of all U.S. high school students have had sex. Yet today’s high school students have lower pregnancy rates and STD infections compared to past generations. According to the U.S Department of Health and Human Resources, in 2013, there were 26.5 births for every 1,000 teen females between ages 15-19. This number is the lowest number of teen pregnancies the U.S. has had (down 10 percent from 2012). Why is that? Sexual education classes are a major reason for this decline, but they are not the only reason. There is one crucial cause that has led to both teen pregnancies and STD rates decreasing and that is simple. It is because of contraceptives.

Having easier access to birth control helps sexually active young adults practice safe sex. Contraceptives should be provided to teens and young adults in a safe environment, where they do not feel uncomfortable and can trust those providing them with contraceptives. What better place for that than schools?

Aside from the risk of pregnancies, which itself is a controversial issue, there is another consequence to having unprotected sex that can drastically affect the lives of teens and young adults: STDs and STIs. According to AVERT.org, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) can often be treated with medication, but there are life-threatening STDs. Because condoms are the only contraceptive available that can truly guard against STDs and STIs with high accuracy as well as help prevent pregnancies, they should be made available to teens.

Schools are implementing condom availability programs to make condoms and contraceptives readily available to young adults that need them, in a safe and judgement-free environment. According to advocatesforyouth.org, condom availability programs are both common and successful. Over 400 school districts, including Washington D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles, have implemented these programs, and there has been a subsequent rise in use of contraceptives that have been implemented among teens in these cities.

Locally, LAUSD has a policy that states high schools in that district are obligated to give high school students access to condoms, unless a parent or guardian opts out of their program. According to Tim Kordic of the LAUSD HIV/AIDS Prevention Unit, this is district policy, but schools chartered with the district, such as POLAHS, are not required to participate.

Charters were meant to be alternative schools that offered better for their students, but in the case of sexual health, the opposite is being done.

POLAHS needs to follow the lead of LAUSD and school districts across the country and adopt a condom availability program to help its students. Having contraceptives available to teens is crucial to ensuring their health, and making condoms available in a safe environment has shown to be effective in preventing both pregnancies and the spread of STDs and STIs.

Although POLAHS does not have a nurse, schools are encouraged to have any staff member that students are comfortable with and trust to be able to provide condoms to students.

“They don’t have to be a nurse or health official on the campus, our goal is to get it to whoever is approachable and that the students trust to go to get something like this,” said Kordic.

Some argue that by providing contraceptives to teenagers, schools are encouraging them to engage in sexual activities. This argument is dangerous to the health and well-being of many young adults. Teenagers are going to have sex. In failing to provide them with easy access to contraceptives, people are harming teens by attempting to shelter them.

According to a study by the U.S. National Library of Science, making condom and contraceptives available does not increase sexual activity. In fact, the only reason that the U.S. has twice the teen birth rates and spread of sexual diseases among teenagers in comparison to other nations, is that other nations have easier access to birth control and contraceptives.

Knowing the consequences of pregnancy, the dangers of STD’s and the fact that every year, according to the Committee of Adolescent Health Care, about 3 million young adults are infected with STD’s. It’s clear that teenagers are vulnerable to effects of being sexually active, so they need protection from someone who cares for their health and can get them the help and protection that they need.

Yes, POLAHS cares for its students and supports them in academics as well as athletics. Like any other high school, POLAHS has sexually active teens. This school should consider joining the many other schools who care about their students’ health and provide them with contraceptives. By simply opting to participate in the LAUSD program to provide high school students with contraceptives, POLAHS can obtain condoms to supply for free to its students and encourage them to make safer and healthier sexual choices. Why not provide POLAHS students with this helpful service?

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