Uproar around schools handing out contraceptives has made its way into the news over several years. Some schools want to, while others do so without parents’ express consent. As someone who was a teen mother myself, I’m often asked my opinion on this issue. Is it okay for schools to do this? While proponents argue that they’re trying to help reduce the number of teen pregnancies and protect students from STDs, many can argue that schools are truly stepping over the line.
Schools and parents alike seem to have forgotten their roles in a child’s life. Instead of raising a child, some parents think that sending them off to school will provide everything needed to turn him or her into “a good person.” At the same time, school staff members get used to caring for students every day, and some seem to forget that these are not their children. Schools are supposed to be about education on concrete core subjects – not about “life issues” and sexual normalcy.
What is a school’s true responsibility?
Parents might be left wondering how schools got interested in what’s going on in kids’ pants. Well, frankly, it is a school’s place to offer basic sex education. That is, the school should provide education about how the human body and gestation works, about the mechanics of sex, and the potential diseases and other hazards of sexual activity. It’s even acceptable in most cases to educate kids about the types of contraceptives available and the types of medical care and screening that applies. Unfortunately, this is a class taught in high school, and a lot of the kids are learning for the first time in a classroom. By that point in life, it should be a refresher and filling in information that parents have already discussed with them.
Out of every 1,000 school children under 17 in the United States, about 35 will give birth, and about 500-700 are sexually active. Of those, an untold number conceive and get an abortion. These numbers decline every year, but they still point to an educational need. Does this mean that schools need earlier sexual education classes? No, it means that parents need to do their job and give their kids a first introduction to sex, including its responsibilities and consequences, at or before child-bearing age. Sex education classes in schools should only fill in the science on something to which students are already introduced.
Which subjects should schools not approach with students?
Part of the contraceptive controversy in schools is that, by handing out contraceptives, school staff are taking an important decision out of parents’ hands. A school is not responsible for the student’s health, moral compass, or other such issues that fall within the responsibility of the parent. Yes, the big “sex talk” is uncomfortable for parents as well as their children, but it is an essential part of open communication as the kids progress through their teen years. The parent’s failure or inability to discuss it with their kids and provide the guidance, contraceptives, or anything else that the kid needs is not the fault or the responsibility of the school. On the same token, if a teen isn’t mature enough to discuss sex with his or her parents, then they’re most likely not mature enough to handle sex and its consequences – both emotional and physical – either.
How should contraceptives for teens be handled?
It is important for sexually active individuals to have access to contraceptives. The statistics bear out their value in preventing unwanted pregnancy, and some types can help guard against sexually transmitted diseases. However, this is not within the realm of a school’s responsibility. While it’s sad that a teen may have an unwanted pregnancy because of a lack of open communication with parents, that responsibility does need to remain with parents.
Individuals and families have different views on the subject, and those are purely family issues. Schools may educate on the facts, but parenting must take over from there.