The controversial move, aimed at decreasing rate of teen pregnancy, has sparked much debate over whether or not 11-year-olds are too young for such a program.
So what influenced Oregon’s rural Gervais School district to approve such a policy?
“Over the past few decades, teen pregnancy in our community has remained somewhat constant, but higher than the board felt comfortable with,” the district’s Superintendent Rick Hensel said.
According to a survey conducted last year by nursing students, 7 per cent of all high school girls in the district reported having experienced pregnancy, with a startling 42 pr cent of students saying they ‘never’ or ‘sometimes’ used protection.
The district school board voted unanimously to approve the policy earlier this month and included pre-high school students because they were close in proximity to high school students and because they too are “getting pregnant”.
“Every few years, a middle school student either becomes pregnant or is associated with a pregnancy,” Hensel said. “The board felt that the curriculum should reach the students of the middle school,” he added alluding that the decision was not an easy one, with some members voting in contrary to their individual beliefs.
Abstinence remains the foundation of the school’s curriculum Hensel says, pointing out that students would be required to speak with a teacher, counsellor or nurse before receiving the condoms.
But critics argue whether students aged 11 and 12 really need condoms.
Amita Vyas, assistant Professor and Director of the Maternal and Child Health Program at george Washington University believes that such students are incredibly young, adding: We really don’t see high rates of sexual activity when we are looking at 13 and under.”
Vyas believes educating young students and keeping them engaged with teachers and parents is still the most useful way to decrease teen pregnancy.
Antonia Villarruel, Professor of Nursing at the University of Michigan, says if younger students are having sex it makes sense to include them.
“If you put it in that context, no, it’s not too early to give condoms,” she said. “The evidence clearly shows it doesn’t encourage sexual behaviour but actually helps to delay it.”
What do you think, is 11 too young for such a program? Would you give your 11-year-old a condom? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.