Local and Community News
Condoms Stay Under Wraps in Schools; Virginia County Wary of Demonstrations
March 21, 2002
The only way Montgomery County, Va., teachers can bring contraceptives into the classroom is in a hermetically sealed box. Now, health instructors and a citizens panel are pushing school officials to let teachers demonstrate how to use condoms. Such demonstrations, supporters say, could help stem a rise in STDs as well as teen pregnancy. Already, students are asking teachers how to use condoms without tearing them.
But the proposal, presented to the school board last week by the Citizens Advisory Committee on Family Life and Human Development, was tabled quickly. The board noted that only nine of the 18 members of the committee were present when the recommendation was made and urged the panel to come back after the committee had taken a full vote. Several board members, though, made clear their discomfort with the subject.
Required by Maryland to teach sex education since 1994, each school district can decide how to handle such delicate issues as condom demonstrations. Teachers may use phallic-shaped wood blocks to demonstrate how to use condoms in Prince George's County, but Fairfax has an abstinence-only curriculum. There sex is discussed only within the context of marriage, and contraceptives are not allowed.
The CDC reports that 82.9 percent of high schools teach that condoms are effective in preventing pregnancy, but only 55 percent teach how to use them. "The biggest failures of condoms are the failures of users to use them properly," said Susan Wooley, executive director of the American School Health Association. Nationally, teenagers make up a quarter of new HIV cases and a majority of all cases of STDs. Already, the fast-rising number of chlamydia cases in Montgomery has forced the county to start a teen education and testing campaign. "If it's a matter of parents not educating, let schools do it," said Mazine Lofton, the school's health nurse.
03.19.02; Brigid Schulte
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.