In a move that gives flashbacks to the Massachusetts school district that proposed making condoms available to elementary school children, Denver has announced that it will make birth control available to one public school in the district. Although this school teaches 6th to 12th grade students, it comes as no surprise that the reactions are just as fierce.
From ABC News:
Community reaction is predictably mixed as a new school year begins with free birth control products available to students at a Colorado public school.
6th through 12th graders at Denver's Bruce Randolph School will be able to get condoms, birth control pills and emergency contraceptives for free, provided their parents opted into services at a school-based clinic run by a Denver hospital.
A group of parents pushed for the birth control program. 13 Bruce Randolph students gave birth to babies over the past two years.
Jennifer Gonzalez was a part of that group and has a son at the school. She says opponents need to make sure they don't have misconceptions about the program.
"It's not like it's a box of condoms that's set out in the hallway for a free for all," Gonzalez says. "These kids go in, they ask for it, and they are counseled."
She says the program helps her feel better about what might happen if her son found himself in a tough spot.
"If the only thing keeping my son from protecting himself is the embarrassment of asking me, or the ability to get to the clinic where it's
offered for free, then I'd much rather him be able to walk into the school-based clinic and ask for it."
Parents need to opt in to let their children participate, but that doesn't stop the anti-sexed, anti-contraception crowds from getting up at arms over the program, even when they live in different states . CBS News has critical reaction from, of all places, Alabama:
Bruce Randolph School in Denver, Colorado will make birth control, condoms and other contraceptive available to students grade six trough 12. They say last year 12 students gave birth at the school and so they are hoping that this measure lowers that number, but what works for Denver is not necessarily what’s right for Alabama.
“I think it ridicules that it’s even talked about. That’s crazy it’s not up to the government and the school system to decide that,” says Joy Prewitt.
“I think that is ridicules there is absolutely no reason for them to bring it to middle schools. They have no business being here doing that,” says Allison Allred.
Most parents say they support abstinence education not birth control.
“I am not ready to go trough that explanation with my daughter. At this young age when they are very impressionable I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” says Joneishia McCurdy.
However, Denver Post columnist Tina Griego gives a thoughtful examination of why this new policy isn't just a winner, but something that should be expanded to many schools:
Here you will speak to people who say, yes, kids make up half of Sun Valley's population, but they're not really children. They're parents, too. You will find teens who had babies because they were careless or because they wanted someone to love. You will find teens who never had a parent to guide them, to teach them their value as individuals. Many of these young people are now trying, often valiantly, to teach their children what they themselves never learned. And some don't even try.
They don't talk to their children about sex.
They don't talk to them about love.
In Sun Valley is a preschool class of 12 kids, and five were born to teenagers. Nearly every parent is single and most live in subsidized housing, receiving monthly cash assistance, relying upon food stamps. And, no, they're not illegal immigrants. They're ours — Latino, black, white.
This is a social issue. It is an economic issue. Teen pregnancy is both product and perpetrator of generational poverty. You're kidding yourself as a taxpayer and a citizen if you think it has no bearing on your life.
If you want to make it a moral issue, I suggest you talk to Dave, who fumes: "People pass Sun Valley all the time. They park nearby for the Bronco games. But they never see it. They don't want to see it. Sun Valley is an inconvenience."
I'm not going to pretend giving young people easier access to birth control is going to significantly dent teen pregnancy. Nor will I say that just because contraception is more readily available, students will avail themselves of it. Contraceptive services must be accompanied by sex education and, yes, that education should include teaching on abstinence.
I do know this. The mamas I talked to Monday in Sun Valley told me the same thing: What's happening across town at Bruce Randolph is needed. These young women love their babies, but they wish they had waited to become parents. Until they graduated. Until their lives were stable. Until they were no longer kids themselves.