Should Schools Hand Out Condoms to Elementary Students?

Politics, News, Rights

Earlier this year, the Provincetown, Massachusetts school district found itself in hot water when a new sex education policy gave all students—from high school all the way down to elementary school—the ability to request condoms from the school nurse without being turned down. The policy, as written, would have technically allowed first graders to get condoms from the nurse, and there was nothing parents could do to stop it.

Of course, the district later backed off their position and said that it was only a misunderstanding over the verbiage of the policy. After an outcry from the governor and enraged parents, the district tweaked the policy to make it more “age appropriate.”

This story brings up an interesting discussion point—Should schools give small children access to condoms? What age is “age appropriate?” When should sex education begin?

Are Students Having Sex at Younger Ages?

According to the ABC News article mentioned earlier in this post, statistics show that about 7% of teens who reported they’d had sex said they had it for the first time before the age of 13. Remember, that’s only one study and only shows the number of students who admitted to having sex. And in some schools, studies show that the average age for sexual debut is as early as 11 years old.

There are also statistics that show the average age at which a child first sees porn online is 11 year old. But that’s not all. A study released by Norton found that “porn” and “sex” are among the most frequently searched phrases by kids using the internet. In fact, “porn” is the 4th most popular search phrase for kids 7 and under.

The point? Kids are being exposed to sex at an earlier age, and in some cases, causing them to engage in sexual activity very early on.

That means that average students could be having sex as early as the 5th or 6th grade, which in many districts is considered elementary school. So, if some elementary-aged children are having sex already, should schools have condoms available for them? Is it at least helpful to teach them about the risks of early sex but also encouraging them to at least be safe if they’re going to do it?

It’s interesting to note that about one-third of sex ed across the country omits birth control. According to the research, lessons about saying no and STDs were more common than lessons on using condoms or other birth control. And by the end of high school, only two-thirds of all boys and girls had received birth control instruction.

Now here’s the interesting part. Researchers have found that students who received comprehensive sex education (sex ed that explains birth control) were 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone pregnant than those who received no sex education. Furthermore, there was no evidence to suggest that abstinence-only education (doesn’t include instruction on birth control) decreased the likelihood of having sex or getting pregnant.

The Benefits of Early Sex Education

Most research seems to indicate that starting sex education early, before kids hit puberty, provides better results than starting after puberty. By starting sex ed at a young age and sustaining the education over the years, young people become less likely to engage in sexual activity and they also are likelier to use condoms and other contraceptives when they do have sex.

It’s also important to remember that adolescents who have early sex show a 20 percent increase in other delinquent acts just one year later compared to those whose first sexual experience occurs at an average age for their school. So, there’s an argument that early sex education could not only stop kids from having unprotected sex but it could also keep them from getting other kinds of trouble.

What Age is the Right Age?

What do you think? What age is the right age to start sex education? And at what age should schools make condoms available to students?

Let’s hear your thoughts!