Parents in Chicago are not happy with the plan to distribute free condoms to students between the ages of 10 to 18 years old once schools start in-person classes in August. The move is an intiative of the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) board of education and it's a part of their expanded policy to promote better sexual health education among the youth.
Under the new policy, over 600 public schools across Chicago are expected to have a free condom program along with its distribution of menstrual products for female students. The school board believes that this program will prevent young people from having unwanted pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS/HIV infection.
Reports cited that CPS issued the policy in December 2020 but could not actively implement the rule as schools were closed due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. The school board once again announced and confirmed that the distribution of free condoms will be available at the start of this year's school season.
A Public Health Issue
The move has the support of the Chicago Department of Public Health and the city's chief health officer, Dr. Kenneth Fox. He said that the children have every right to access "accurate and clear information" so they can make healthy choices, protect their health and the health of other people who will be affected by their decisions.
"When you don't have those protections and don't make those resources available, then bad stuff happens to young people," Fox said, adding that students in fifth grade already have a developmental understanding of sex.
The public health office will provide the initial supplies of condoms for the schools. They will also write letters to parents about possible condom demonstrations, if necessary.
Schools in Chicago are also expected to help the children develop their social and emotional understanding of safe sex and meaningful relationships. Fox reiterated that there are studies supporting the concept of age-appropriate, medically advised sex education for children.
According to experts from the Chicago Women's Health Center, making condoms accessible to children above 10 years old doesn't mean that they have to use the protection. Rather, it is a "harm reduction approach."
'But they are kids!'
One parent who is part of the Healing to Action organization, which promotes healthy sex education, expressed her objection to the initiative. Maria Serrano said that children age 10, 11 or 12 are still kids and they should focus on learning and developing other skills, instead of how to put on a condom.
The mom believes that public schools could teach kids healthy sex education through other resources and information. Serrano also thinks that a 10-year-old is not yet ready to understand what a condom is for. She stated that CPS has a backward approach on this matter.
Serrano also said that, rather than distribute free condoms, parents should also be educated on talking about sex to kids. In some communities, it's still taboo for children to discuss this topic with their parents, making it harder for the children to have a wholesome and accurate approach to sex.
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