Should all Boston high schools provide condoms? That was the debate at a packed public hearing in Boston Tuesday, where many students complained they aren't getting enough information about sex in school.
Sex Ed In Boston Public Schools
Everything about sexual education in Boston Public Schools is haphazard.
Take condoms, for example. Only some of Boston's high schools make them available, and that's only if students are enrolled in the on-site health center.
"I only received it [sex ed] in elementary school...They didn't teach anything about sex ed or its prevention for STIs or STDs."Starry Dau, Charlestown High senior
Charlestown High senior Starry Dau said his school doesn't have a health center. His friends have a hard time getting condoms.
"Either one, they shoplift them from drug stores, two, they borrow them from friends, or three, they go to public health clinics to get them or they steal them from their parents," Dau said.
Dau said he hasn't received any sexual education in high school.
"I only received it in elementary school, so that's been quite a long time. They only taught me about my gender, my body organs, how it functions. They didn't teach anything about sex ed or its prevention for STIs or STDs," he said.
Melinda Wang goes to the elite Boston Latin School. She said her health teacher dedicated about three class sessions to sex.
"Basically, all the teacher did was ask us what we were curious about and she answered our questions in a very brief manner. We never had a formal education in how to prevent unsafe sex activity," Wang said.
High Rates Of STIs And STDs In Boston
Boston health officials say almost one-third of teens having sex aren't using condoms. And they are driving up high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, according to Boston Public Health Commissioner Barbara Ferrer.
"The increases in the rates of some of our sexually transmitted infections are alarming. In Boston they disproportionately affect young people," Ferrer said.
Teen pregnancy is also the No. 1 reason girls have given for dropping out of Boston Public Schools, according to teen pregnancy advocates.
Boston Public Schools recently re-established a health department after going 10 years without one. Now they're reviewing whether to provide more comprehensive sexual education to students, and whether to provide condoms at all high schools. Cities like New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia have recently adopted more comprehensive sex ed training.
Opposition To Passing Out Condoms In Schools
Not all parents agree with this idea. Claudette Joseph said it wasn't government's place to get into the personal lives of students.
"I am vehemently against the passing of condoms in Boston Public Schools. Firstly, it usurps the authority of the parents. It places the government first, and the parents second in command," Joseph said.
Other critics said condoms aren't full-proof and abstinence is the best message for keeping kids healthy.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley sponsored the hearing, and said she wants to see condoms available at all public high schools, as well as a comprehensive sex ed program that teaches students about abstinence, sexuality and even how to spot an unhealthy relationship.
This program aired on February 16, 2011.