Maryland County Asked to Allow Condom Demonstrations As Part of Sex Ed Classes
The Montgomery County, Md., Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development last week asked the county school board to allow teachers to demonstrate how to use condoms as part of sex education classes in an effort to lower rates of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy, the Washington Post reports. However, the proposal was "tabled quickly" due to the absence of nine of the 18 board members, and, according to the Post, several board members who were present appeared "clear[ly]" uncomfortable with the subject. Under a 1994 Maryland law, all school districts are required to teach sex education as part of a high school health graduation requirement. But it is left to each individual district to determine how it will address condoms. Currently in Montgomery County, teachers can only display condoms in a case; they cannot demonstrate how to use them. According to the CDC, 82.9% of high schools teach that condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy, but only 55% of schools demonstrate use. Student inquiries and rising rates of chlamydia infections among Montgomery County's teens have prompted educators and concerned residents to seek a change. "These kids are trying to be responsible. ... And we make it as difficult as possible for them," Susan Soule, a health teacher at Montgomery Blair High School, said. Mazine Lofton, a nurse at the same high school, said comprehensive education is important because she sees teens "who don't even know the proper names of their body parts yet who are sexually involved." Nationwide, teens account for the majority of STD infections and 25% of new HIV cases.
Facts or Values?
But the debate over condoms in schools raises questions about "who should teach children about the facts of life," the Post reports. "There has to be some parental responsibility. We can't just be everything to everyone. I, as a parent, don't want to give kids the message, 'We can't stop you from having sex, so go ahead and do it,'" school board member Nancy King said. On the other side, board member Sharon Cox said, "I don't believe that showing children in 10th grade why condoms fail due to improper use is a problem. I think it's just common sense. It doesn't imply that they should be using them." Lawrence Jacobs, head of the citizens' panel, said the condom discussion should be about teens' health and not a "political issue." He called the board's tabling of the proposal a "transparent attempt to sweep these issues under the rug." The issue may be raised again when the full board meets (Schulte, Washington Post, 3/19).