San Francisco is about to start giving its middle schoolers a critical educational resource: condoms.
The city's school board voted Tuesday in favor of a policy that will make condoms available to public school students, much to the chagrin of many local parents, who protested the measure. School officials agreed unanimously to allow middle school staff to give condoms to students individually, "in conjunction with a session with a school nurse or social worker to identify risk factors and provide referrals or resources as necessary," according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Opponents of the measure, which does not allow parents to opt out or require they be notified if their children do receive condoms, have argued it's not the school's job to make contraception available to young students.
Giving condoms to preteens "undermines the authority of the family," Victor Seeto, a chairman of the Chinese American Democratic Club, told the Chronicle of his opposition to the measure.
District officials, however, claim providing condoms is necessary to protect the estimated 16% of adolescents who become sexually active by age 15, many of whom don't use protection.
"We have students who are sexually active, and we have students in middle school who are considering being sexually active, and we know that getting someone to talk to about this [is important], and we believe that we have the appropriate staff to have those conversations with them," Kevin Gogin, director of safety and wellness for the San Francisco Unified School District's Student, Family and Community Support Department, told the San Francisco Examiner.
Other school districts in California, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District, require parental notification if and when schools provide condoms. Some progressive school districts across the country have also allowed students to access hormonal birth control and long-acting reversible contraception, such as IUDs.
But while many of these schools require some form of parental notification or consent, only a handful of schools in places like Seattle and, now, San Francisco, allow students to make their own choices about their sexual health.
The San Francisco school board's decision marks yet another school district's departure from the abysmal standards for sex education throughout much of the rest of the country. The plan doesn't just provide prophylactics; it also empowers students to make their own sexual health decisions, even if they're just entering puberty. And while some parents take issue with the idea of giving young adolescents contraception, research has shown that educating students about safe sex and healthy sexuality at younger ages can actually encourage them to delay sexual activity.
Either way, while San Francisco schools might be giving students greater access to birth control, it's unlikely kids will take full advantage of the policy. 'Cause let's be real: 12-year-olds are an awkward bunch. How many of them are actually going to ask their teachers for condoms?