Wednesday night’s meeting of the Buffalo School Board was not without its share of arguments. A vote on whether or not to offer condoms to high school students brought sex, disease, and morals to the table.
“Why are we using an opt-out program and encouraging the sexual activity when we should be teaching and encouraging abstinence,” was the question from school board member Carl Paladino that stirred some serious debate. He made it clear that he felt the program stepped over the boundaries of the parent-child relationship.
Paladino was quickly challenged by other board members, including Dr. Barbara Seals Nevergold who said, “The fact of the matter is that we’re not condoning that behavior by providing condoms and we’re not usurping parental guidance.”
According to the proposal that went before the board, parents in the school district will have the option to ask that their children not have condoms made available to them by school nurses. Otherwise, students will be required to go through specific sex education courses to ensure they know the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases and the possibility of pregnancy before the condoms are given to them.
Student representative Bicana Brown asked the board how many pregnancies are reported in Buffalo schools each year. Board member Patricia Pierce said the number exceeds 200 annually. Brown then asked Paladino, “Why would you force the students to go to their parents, knowing that they won’t? And either they’ll go find condoms - which I’m pretty sure some students will not go to a store because they’ll feel weird buying condoms. And then they’ll just have sex and then catch an STD or have kids?" Brown also reminded Paladino that both the use of condoms and abstinence as protection are already taught in high school health classes.
Ultimately, the board voted 6 to 1 in favor of going forward with the program. Pending approval from the state education department, parents will receive the opt-out notices this August. The new sex education courses will begin in September and, for eligible students, condom availability will start in January.