After struggling for a full year to be heard, many Rochester youth, their parents and sexual education teachers have finally been heard by the Board of Education. The proposed “condom policy” has finally been passed by the Board, and it was anything but easy for those involved.
Although called the “condom policy,” the actual petition makes four other points, all of which pertain to secondary schools. These include: school-based health clinics in every school, the allowance of community agencies to supplement existing health education curriculum, the distribution of condoms on school grounds and the allowance of condom demonstrations, and finally the improvement of school climate and atmosphere. The policy also plans to retain parts of the current curriculum that emphasizes abstinence.
Also, parents will have to “opt-out” of this service instead of being able to opt-in. This will allow further of youth because the services will be automatic and health personnel won’t lose students because of lost or forgotten forms.
Rochester youth brought this petition into schools to be circulated amongst friends and other students. Safe Sex Inc., a youth group founded in August 2010, has been spearheading the effort. They featured the petition at their events, met and spoke with most of the Board of Education members, and have spoken at all of the monthly Board of Education meetings, giving personal anecdotes and statistics to draw in supporters.
“I’m sure they were tired of seeing our faces,” says Summer Adams, 15, a concerned youth and representative with Youth Voice One Vision. Adams has also been at many of the monthly meetings. When asked why she has taken up the cause, Adams said, “Fact is, Rochester’s [sexually transmitted disease] rate is skyrocketing, we need to prevent this as much as we can.”
However, the petition has not been welcomed quite so warmly among other members of the community. Even after being passed, many residents who oppose the policy have not given up.
Cherry Green, 34, a resident of Rochester for 29 years who now lives in Jacksonville, FL, strongly opposes the policy. “I care about the RCSD Condom policy because Rochester is my hometown; where I was born, grew up and where I went to school,” Green said. When asked about how much she knows regarding the policy, Green responded with, “I know that it contains the words ‘condom’ and ‘Rochester City School District’, which equates to children having sex and the Rochester City School District facilitating this by providing condoms.”
Many also believe that by enacting the petition, the school will be attempting to infringe on the rights of parents. Caswell Smith, 28, Youth Development Specialist and Adult Supervisor to Safe Sex Inc., noted that that was never the intention of the petition, “We were actually hoping it will start a conversation between the parents and the youth.” A much needed conversation considering in the first nine months of 2010, nearly half of new cases of HIV were in people under the age of 25, with a clear increase in teens and adolescents. This is up from only 14% in 2007, according to the CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
Some of the members of Safe Sex Inc. can be seen on TALKBACK4Teens Episode 6.0: Teen Pregnancy where youth discussed how prevalent teen pregnancy is becoming once again with a few sharing personal experiences.