If you discovered someone in your neighborhood was handing out condoms to 13 year-olds, what would you do?
You might call the police. Unless, of course, you are in San Francisco where you might notify the public schools they have competition.
San Francisco Unified School District is getting ready to extend its Condom Availability Program from high school down to middle school students. The rationale is 5.2 percent of the students are having sex, so therefore they have a moral obligation to protect them from sexually transmitted diseases. Of course, the students wouldn’t get the free condoms without first chatting with a social worker or a school nurse.
The Campaign for Tobacco Free kids reports 14.8 percent of eighth graders have smoked cigarettes. Since that is almost triple the number that have had sex, shouldn’t San Francisco Unified offer free e-cigarettes since they are somewhat healthier or at least free Nicorette gum?
You will find “progressive” parents in San Francisco favoring the move as they argue if kids are going to do it anyway they might as well as be protected. But why the schools and why now?
It might surprise you that the percentage of middle school kids that have had sex has remained around 5 percent or less since various organizations such as the Guttmacher Institute started doing such surveys back in the 1970s and earlier. The odds are 5 percent is probably on the low side compared to past behavior dating back to the time of the Roman Empire. Perhaps having some standards for behavior is what has made man more civilized but I digress. This isn’t about civilization, it’s about being progressive.
Maybe you’re thinking SF Unified personnel can point to trends that show an upswing in sexually transmitted diseases among middle school students. There isn’t one.
Even so, you may ask, what harm is there to schools giving out free condoms to 13 year-olds brave or brazen enough to chat about sex with a school nurse?
Perhaps the best way to answer that is with a question: Can a 13-year-old be prosecuted as a sex offender for distributing child pornography in the form of nude photos of themselves or others sent via a smartphone?
It has happened and continues to happen. In fact, a month doesn’t go by that a school district somewhere isn’t slammed by parents for not doing enough to prevent kids from sex texting when school personnel intercepts what is legally classified as child pornography on a student’s phone and contacts law enforcement as they are required to do so by law.
How can you square that with giving away free condoms?
The message is clear: Sex is OK if you use condoms. Yet couldn’t that encourage more experimentation such as sending nude selfies? While sexually transmitted diseases can have a devastating impact on a young person’s life so can registering as a sex offender.
Then there is the real question that needs to be asked: What is the function of public schools?
Only about half of San Francisco’s students can meet state standards for math and reading whereas 94.8 percent of its middle school students abstain from sex.
Where is the “extra” help for the kids needing assistance nailing down non-essential school stuff like mathematics and reading?
We often expect schools to do too much by picking up the load that parents should handle but some forsake. And while the state has required schools to teach sex education, it is a stretch to believe that gives them a green light to distribute condoms to 13 year-olds.
Schools enter dangerous territory when they undermine parents as well as send mixed messages about behavior that — depending upon the circumstances — could have a 13 year-old branded as a sex offender whether it is having sex with someone too young or could make them feel it is OK to sex text. After all, the school is giving them free condoms so it must be OK to send nude photos of oneself via smartphones. It isn’t too big of a leap of logic for kids. But why worry? The school nurse or social worker will cover all the pitfalls of sex and sexual behavior and the 13 year-old will follow their advice to a “T”, right?
Still don’t you think it a bit odd for a school district to assume any parent would be comfortable with a stranger whether it is a social worker or school nurse they don’t know or Chester down the street giving their 13 year-old free condoms?
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.