Kid Condoms: Provincetown Likely to Limit to 5th Grade and Up

A Massachusetts school district is going ahead with plans to give condoms to students even without their parents' consent, but because of an outcry from Gov. Deval Patrick and others the district will consider excluding students in grades one through four.

The Provincetown School District -- the smallest in the state of Massachusetts -- will take a "relook" at the sex education policy that created a firestorm this week, according to School Superintendent Beth Singer.

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a Democrat, intervened Thursday in a fracas over giving condoms to Cape Cod elementary students as young as first grade.

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On June 10, the the seaside resort town voted unanimously for a sex education policy allowing all children -- elementary and high school students -- to seek out a counselor and obtain condoms without parental permission.

On Thursday, the governor called Singer to weigh in, saying sex education programs should be "age appropriate" and that "parents ought to be involved."

Singer, who wrote the policy, agreed to take the governor's advice and review the matter with the board.

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She told that the policy had been "misinterpreted and misunderstood" as reporters descended on the small community Thursday, asking why it had authorized condoms for first graders.

Some locals called the new policy "ridiculous and absurd," and "disgusting."

"I think this should be a parent's decision," said Charlie Hanson.

"I think it is going a little too far," said Constance Black.

School officials said they believe in abstinence, and that the policy was intended to encourage students who are having sex to protect themselves and their partners.

"We were never giving condoms to elementary school children," said Singer. "It's for sexually active people, and we don't see that as relevant to elementary school."

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"You turn on the television and 24/7, there is sex," she said. "And it is possible to have a young teenager in the sixth grade. So the school committee didn't want to eliminate anyone to having access for whom it was relevant."

According to 2006 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 7 percent of teens who reported they'd had sex said they had it for the first time before the age of 13.

Never Too Young for Sex Education

Dr. Eugene Beresin, a professor at Harvard University and director of training in child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General and McLean hospitals in Boston, said he was in favor of policies aimed at younger children.

"If kids are taught and have access to counseling, there's a better chance of abstinence being maintained and the risk of STDs is diminished," he said.

But, he said, condom distribution should not be the "flagship" of sex education.

"Let's face it," he said. "You can't stop kids from having sex if they want to. It would be great if they hold off, but we can't stop it. What we can do is improve responsibility. So while we have to be thoughtful about randomly distributing condoms in the first grades, sex behavior and its consequences are part of the lives of young teens through young adulthood."

As for parental permission, Beresin said, "schools and families together" need to be educating children about responsible sexual behavior.

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