Condoms for Kids: Tempest Brews in Artsy Provincetown, Massachusetts
Provincetown, Mass. debates birth control issue.
June 24, 2010 -- 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."