Rochester, N.Y.—Parents knew in spring that a condom program of some kind would be on its way to city schools; the picture of what that will look like is getting clearer.
Students will have to go to health clinics at one of four high schools: Franklin, Marshall, Edison or East. If students agree to counseling and not to sell condoms among other terms, they will have access to condoms.
“Not everybody is doing it as they say and it’s ok to wait, but if you are going to be active, you need to protect yourself,” said Gladys Pedraza-Burgos, Chief of Youth Development and Family Services at the Rochester City School District.
District leaders say this is not a distribution plan, but an availability plan. It is also an incomplete plan.
“The state is looking at the Condom Availability Program and what (the) training program looks like for our school nurses,” said Pedraza-Burgos.
The state is also reviewing curriculum changes that have to do with another component of condom access. Under the district’s plan, students would be able to get condoms from high school nurses. It is unclear if that will happen at the start of the school year, according to Pedraza-Burgos, because the state is also reviewing a change to the health curriculum.
“We don’t even have the practice of effectively handing out condoms down pat, we’re going to take on this additional role that is not something we’re equipped to do—even our nurses are equipped to do,” said Van White, a city school board member who voted against the condom plan.
According to the district, state approval is forthcoming.
“We hope very shortly to have the curriculum approved by the state and to implement the program,” added Pedraza-Burgos.
The school district explored the notion of condoms in city school as a result of a high number of teenage pregnancies (which reach roughly 600 per year according to the district) as well as curbing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
In a letter that will soon be sent to parents, the school district explains the reasons for implementing the condom plan and offers parents the option of opting out of condom availability for their children.
There were about 1,000 pregnancies in city zip codes in 2010, age 15-19 according to the Monroe County Department of Public Health .