As students head back to class on Wednesday in Rochester, some will find more than just new textbooks and lockers. They will now have access to condoms.
Gladys Pedraza-Burgos is Chief of Youth Development and Family Services for RCSD. She said "We're a part of making sure our students are well protected and well educated about the dangers of STD's and HIV as well."
In 2010, the Monroe County Health Department approached the district with some alarming statistics. They say half of all the HIV infections in Rochester occur in people ages 15-24.
That's when school leaders started forming the Condom Availability Program, or CAP. After months of meetings and debates students at Marshall, East, Franklin and Edison High Schools can now walk into their school's health clinic and pick up condoms. However, they will be required to get counseling from a health professional.
Pedraza-Burgos added "For a long time the school district has had an 'abstinence only' school policy, but as you can see with 58% of our students disclosing that they're having sex, it's not necessarily working for our students."
The president of theNew Yorker's Family Research Foundationargues that abstinence is the only way. Jason McGuire said "When we talk about drugs we dont say 'Stick to weed instead of heroin', or 'wine coolers instead of hard liquor'. But for some reason when it comes to human sexuality we assume that kids will fail."
McGuire says making condoms available is sending the wrong message, that it condones unsafe sexual behavior. But RCSD says there's no proof to show that condoms, provided in controlled conditions, equals more promiscuity, disease or unwanted pregnancies.
"They are not on a student's desk in a jar for them to just kind of stick thier hands in and pull out condoms, said Pedraza-Burgos. "We are being very responsible about this."
Parents who don't want their children to have access to condoms can opt out of the program. Forms were sent home to parents last week. For more information, click here.
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