The GEM Debate:
Condoms For Sixth Graders? Is This A Good Idea?
Yes, you read that correctly. The Gervais School District in Oregon will soon be able to give condoms to students as young as sixth grade. The plan would allow only specific people—such as a teacher, the sex education teacher, a counselor, or perhaps an administrator—to give condoms to students who ask for one. A conversation would take place before the condoms are given out, presumably to discuss the implications of sex.
The move is a result of a study done by Oregon Health & Science University, which found that seven percent of Gervais High School’s students had become pregnant. This school year alone, nine girls (or five percent) of girls in grades six through 12 had become pregnant. The study also found that 42 percent of Gervais High School students said they “never” or “sometimes” use any protection against STDs or pregnancy.
Gervais School District Superintendent Rick Hensel said the reasoning behind why sixth graders were included in the policy was a logistical issue—the district’s middle school is only 40 feet away from the high school.
“I think the concern was that if we have our middle school, we have some of the same teachers teaching the same topics at the high school, obviously there’s going to be a different type of curriculum for the middle school, but at some point they just kind of felt it would evolve to that anyway—so let’s just include them (sixth graders),” Hensel said.
Hensel indicated that it would be different if the district intended to install dispensers or leave condoms in an easily accessible place, but the policy that was passed requires students to talk to a teacher first before receiving a condom.
I know we don’t like to think about this, but there are students in middle school who are engaging in sexual activity. Not all of them, of course, and not even most of them, thank goodness. But if they are, I want them to talk to an adult they trust and I want them to be responsible for their health.
As I’ve said before, I taught junior high school, and every year I became aware that a few of my students were having sex. I knew because they told me. I heard stories of regret. I heard stories of girls who were pregnant, but their mothers made them have an abortion. I’ve had students in seventh grade who were pregnant. (Sidenote: Do you understand the cognitive dissonance involved with telling a pregnant seventh grader that she can leave without asking to use the restroom whenever she needs to go?) This is just my anecdotal experience, but you’re dreaming if you think there are no sexually active kids in your local middle school.
Do we even have to say that middle school students aren’t ready for sex? They’re not. Some students are just reaching puberty or smack dab in the middle of it. None are emotionally ready for the inevitable pitfalls of sex. But since we know a few sixth graders somewhere are doing it, isn’t it better for them to have safe or safer sex?
Yes, the sex talk and all that should be left to parents and I’d like to believe that in most cases it is, but that’s not always happening. Some kids do not have parents who are talking fully and honestly about sex. In my experience, students who were sexually active had one thing in common: parents who were not talking to them. And I don’t mean just not about sex—they weren’t emotionally engaged in their children’s lives and it was usually chaotic at home.
But even talking to your kids and being involved may not be enough because, let’s face this fact, we don’t control our kids and they are going to make decisions and do things we don’t agree with or approve of.
It is difficult to think of my now 7-year-old being able to get condoms in five short years. In a perfect world, she would wait until, at the very least, she’s out of high school to think about sex. But the world isn’t perfect and until it is, I want my children and your children to be healthy and safe.
Related: RENE ON CNN: KIDS AND CONDOMS
What do you think? Are condoms for sixth graders too much too soon? Take the poll and share your thoughts below.