Kid Condoms: Provincetown Superintendent Apologizes

Mass. school superintendent apologizes for confusion over a sex ed policy.

ByABC News
June 24, 2010, 4:37 PM

June 30, 2010 -- The superintendent of a Massachusetts school district is apologizing to parents for what she calls a misunderstanding over a sex education policy that as written, would have applied to both high school students and first-graders.

Provincetown Superintendent Beth Singer said in the letter e-mailed Tuesday that the district would clarify that elementary school-age students couldn't get condoms if they requested them from the school nurse.

Singer said it became necessary to revise the policy's wording after it was "so badly understood and misrepresented by the media," according to the Cape Cod Times.

"It is especially troublesome to me and to our school community that this is likely to have been your introduction to the policy," Singer wrote in the e-mail, as reported in the Cape Cod Times.

In 1991, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education passed its first policy on condom availability as part its previous policy on AIDS/HIV prevention education.

It recommended that "every school committee, in consultation with superintendents, administrators, faculty, parents and students consider making condoms available in their secondary schools."

Provinceton -- the smallest district in the state -- was at the center of a firestorm after its school board voted unanimously on June 8 to give condoms to students even without their parents' consent. But because of an outcry from Gov. Deval Patrick and others the district said would consider excluding students in grades one through four.

Singer, who wrote the condom policy, agreed to take the governor's advice to make it "age appropriate" and review the matter with the board.

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," Singer told "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."

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.

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.