A new policy by Chicago Public Schools to provide free condoms to all students in grades fifth and above has ignited a debate about children, sex-education and the role of schools.
The Chicago Public Schools Board of Education passed the plan in December, requiring all schools that teach fifth grade and up to maintain a "condom availability program."
"Condoms are provided at no cost by the Chicago Department of Public Health in an ongoing effort to mitigate the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, and unintended pregnancy among CPS students," the Chicago Public Schools website says.
This means that all but about a dozen of the city's 600 schools will have condoms, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Those 12 or so schools only teach younger grades.
"Essentially what we want to do is make condoms available to students for if and when they think they need them," Kenneth Fox, a doctor for Chicago Public Schools, told the Sun-Times. "… When you don't have those protections and don't make those resources available, then bad stuff happens to young people. You have elevated risks of sexually transmitted infections, of unintended pregnancies, and that's very preventable stuff."
The district will supply the condoms. Elementary schools will get 250 condoms, while high schools will have 1,000 on hand, the newspaper reported.
"I would expect that not everybody is going to be completely on board right from the start, but I do think society has changed," Fox said.
Maria Serrano, a parent whose daughter is a sophomore, criticized the plan.
"They are 10 years old, 11, 12. They are kids. So why is CPS thinking about providing condoms? Why not provide them information, and at the end give them the resource of a condom when they are prepared to use those resources they want to provide," she told the Sun-Times.
Readers on the Sun-Times Facebook page also were critical.
"That's too young!! Eighth grade[,] I could see that[,] but kids are going to be kids and play with that stuff," one person wrote. "That's the parents (sic) job."
"So now the tax $$$$ we pay to EDUCATE our children is going to go to condoms?" another person asked.
Photo courtesy: Taylor Wilcox/Unsplash
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.