New Chicago Public School policy requires that schools make condoms available to children as young as fifth grade at the start of the new school year late next month.
This will be the first time that schools in Chicago will be fully re-opening since the pandemic.
In addition to masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers, air purifiers, and menstruation products, The Chicago Sun-Times reported that schools teaching fifth grade and higher must also “maintain a condom availability program as part of an expanded vision of sexual health education.”
Middle schools will be given 250 condoms to start off with while high schools will be given 1,000 by the Chicago Department of Public Health, who is providing them to the district at no cost as part of “the city’s effort to prevent teen pregnancies, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases,” the Sun-Times notes.
Principals will need to request additional supplies when these run out.
When a school runs out, principals will be told to request more from CPS and CDPH.
The newspaper notes this is a program that has been “in the making” for several years; school principals previously could use their own discretion when it came to making birth control available to students.
“Young people have the right to accurate and clear information to make healthy decisions,” pediatrician Kenneth Fox said in an interview. “And they need access to resources to protect their health and the health of others as they act on those decisions.”
“Essentially what we want to do is make condoms available to students for if and when they think they need them,” he said. “ … When you don’t have those protections and don’t make those resources available then bad stuff happens to young people. You have elevated risks of sexually transmitted infections, of unintended pregnancies, and that’s very preventable stuff.”
“I would expect that not everybody is going to be completely on board right from the start, but I do think society has changed,” Fox also said.
When he was asked by the program started with fifth grade, when children are typically 10 or 11 years old, Fox said that this decision had been “informed by a developmental understanding of children.”
He does not believe that making condoms available to children this young will cause any adverse effects. The CPS sex ed curricula stresses that “choosing not to have sex is the norm for 5th graders” and that parents and guardians will be given prior warning if a condom demonstration is to take place at school.
One wonders how, if children this young are not expected to be having sex, they are to be informed that condoms are available for them without them also being given the distinct impression from their school that it is, in fact, normal for children to be having sex.
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