For the past few months, there have been conversations amongst SAS faculty, staff, and parents regarding whether or not SAS should make condoms available for students at school. I’m sure your first reaction to reading that was either “hell no!” or “yes please!”—the subject matter is likely that polarizing. Still, there is definitely a larger discussion that needs to take place because this is not an issue to be dealt with lightly.
SAS conducts an anonymous survey targeted towards all high school students every 3 years that addresses a wide range of topics including sexuality. According to this survey, approximately 12% of all high school students have had sex at least once. This may not seem like a huge number, but consider this: of the 12% of students who claim to have had sex at least once, 44% consists of upperclassmen (juniors and seniors). This means a total of 22% of upperclassmen are sexually active. This can support two different sides of an argument.
1. Distributing condoms at school would only encourage students to engage in sexual activity.
In an interview I had with one of the parents taking part in the focus group organized by the school, she said, “Giving out condoms would allow students who were never previously sexually active an easier chance to become sexually active.” She argues that most high school students (88%) are not sexually active, so it doesn’t seem fair to start distributing condoms just for the 12% who are. She added that there may be students who are holding back because they lack the access to such contraceptives, so allowing easier access may be all the encouragement they need. This may not seem like a bad thing, but this particular parent believes it’s risky and simply not right to have sex at such an early age, so encouraging them through this newly introduced idea of distributing condoms are off the table for her.
2. Distributing condoms at school would promote safe sex for students who engage in sexual activity.
I was able to interview another parent part of the focus group who argued that distributing condoms for those who are or want to be sexually active would promote safe sex, which she believes is “better than trying to brainwash everyone that sex is bad and they shouldn’t do it.” She added, “The number of students who admit to having sex is quite low (12%), but it still definitely shows that there are kids who have sex and it’s important to acknowledge that and support them, regardless of how few there may be.” This parent further elaborated that although she does not want to encourage her children to start being sexually active, she would want them to be encouraged to engage only in sexual activity under safe circumstances.
I am not aware of what the intention the school has with these focus groups—whether they are merely for data gathering or the possibility of distributing contraception is, indeed, a viable option being considered for the future. Regardless, I personally do think it is an important discussion to have and one that could very effectively happen within the SAS community—where we as students spend an inordinate amount of time and where much of our social and academic education it taking place.
So, what do you think? What are your thoughts on the school making condoms available for students? We would love to read your opinions in the comment section below.