Condoms for Kids: Tempest Brews in Artsy Provincetown, Massachusetts

In the small Massachusetts town where the Mayflower first landed and puritanical Pilgrims penned the "compact" that would evolve into the U.S. Constitution, a tempest is brewing -- over condoms in the classroom.

Just this week, the school board of Provincetown, a seaside resort that sits on the tip of Cape Cod, voted unanimously for a sex education policy allowing all children -- elementary and high school -- to seek out a counselor and obtain condoms.

But according to Superintendent Beth Singer, that policy was "misinterpreted and misunderstood," and today the world descended on the smallest school district in the state, asking why it was giving condoms to first graders.

And because school officials felt strongly that those who are sexually active should have protection, they had no "opt out" clause for parents.

When the national news media descended, some locals reacted: "This is ridiculous and absurd," said one. "It's 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 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."

"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."

In fact, Provincetown's elementary school -- all 85 students -- serves children in pre-K to grade 6, but will soon admit toddlers as young as 15 months.

"Surprise, we are not giving them condoms," said Singer, who said the backlash "is not over yet."

After stories headlined "Condoms for Kids" hit the Internet, readers reacted: "Welcome to the socialist USA where the government knows best."

Earlier today, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick called Singer and weighed in, saying sex education programs should be "age appropriate," and "parents ought to be involved."

Singer said she has taken his advice and the board will "relook" over its policy.

"Most of the firestorm is outside our town," she said. "I have suggested that if this were Hoboken [New Jersey], people wouldn't have reacted this way. Provincetown is a certain kind of town."

Provincetown, with a summer population that can swell as high as 100,000 on the Fourth of July, is the nation's self-proclaimed "oldest art colony" and former stage to playwrights like to Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams.

It has also been named the nation's "best gay resort town" and a "number one destination" for same-sex weddings, largely during the summer when out-of-towners descend on the pristine beaches and rental homes.

This progressive community -- influenced by early Americans and later by generations of Portuguese fisherman -- is used to difference of opinions, according to Bob Sanborn, director of the Provincetown Tourist Board.

"Because of our tradition and freedom over many years with artists, writers and bohemians and later the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community started flocking to town, it's known for its being rich and diverse," he said . Everyone gets along and is always very accepting."

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