For months the school board has been facing the question of whether condoms should be distributed by the health clinic at the schools.
Both sides of the issue have been weighing in and on Monday night the school board approved allowing the health department to make condoms available to students without parental permission following a discussion with health officials by a 5-3 vote.
“I don’t think the issue of condoms is the end-all and be-all,” said Sharon Beloin Saavedra, school board president. “I think it is but one component of a bigger program in addressing adolescent teenage sexual activities.”
“My issue is that it does not belong in the school system,” said Paul Carver, school board member. “We have other issues that are far more important. We are not holding students to expectations.”
School board member Erin Stewart said, sexual education learning should start as early as fifth grade.
Stewart said when it comes to high school students, “you can’t pretend it is not happening. It is.”
“We need to look at our curriculum and how we are teaching it,” said Anthony Kane, school board member. “I don’t believe it’s the role of the school.”
School board member Judy Greco, said she was a guidance counselor at the school at one time. In 1989, she said, there were 65 pregnancies.
“We just can’t pretend that it is not happening and hope it will go away,” said Greco. “Because it is not going to. Our kids are sexually active.”
At New Britain High School about 50 girls become pregnant each year. New Britain also is at the top of having students in New Britain with STDs.
Prior to the meeting a number of people spoke strongly for and against the issue.
Paulette Fox, of the OIC, said she has served about 8,000 youth.
“They are sexually active and we are fooling ourselves if we don’t think they are,” said Fox. “Our youth need options. They need role models.”
Jim Ayalla, school counselor, brought in 2 young dads from the high school who said that if condoms were available they might not be fathers at this young age.
“Having the condoms could have prevented these pregnancies,” said Ayalla. “We can look away and deny the reality or deal with the reality.”
“All I ever hear about is kids having sex. That is a reality now at New Britain High School,” said one of the young fathers Mark. “I think its time to protect more students. It’s not easy being a father.”
“A lot of moms wish they had condoms,’ said another father Geovanni. “We are fooling ourselves to think we won’t have sex.”
Carver later commented on the issue.
“I think it’s a cop-out to say if only my school gave out condoms, I wouldn’t have gotten pregnant or I wouldn’t have gotten my girlfriend pregnant,” said Carver. “That is just not taking responsibilities for your actions.”
Some members of the audience agreed with Carver’s stance to not allow health officials to hand out condoms.
“I am opposed to this offensive proposal,” said Carmelo Rodriguez. “As a parent and having nephews and nieces in the school district I believe this proposal is a personal attack against our family values and religious beliefs.”
Edwin DeJesus, a guidance counselor at New Britain High School, said the schools need mentoring programs.
“Passing out condoms is a band-aid to a gaping wound,” said DeJesus.
Most school board members agreed.
“We have babies having babies,” said Saavedra. “This (resolution) leads to deeper conversations, but this is one small step in taking care of a very large problem.”
The board will talk about more details concerning what exactly will be done by the health officials regarding condoms at a future meeting.