Should preteens be provided birth control at school?
Maine decision an effective way to avoid child parents
The Northern Light
It’s undeniable that kids today are maturing and growing up faster. Whether this is due to media influence or something in the meat they’re eating, there is a definite sexual energy that permeates America’s youth. And young kids are going to do what they do best: being sneaky and getting what they want.
Most parents don’t want to admit to themselves the obvious: Their children are going to grow up into sexual beings, and sometimes this happens a lot earlier than they expected. As shocking as it may seem, something needs to be done if middle school and junior high students are having sex.
We can’t be ignorant to the fact that this is going on. Though these kids are on their way to becoming sexually mature, how much comprehensive sexual education are they receiving? They can’t be too young to be taught the repercussions of having sex, and for those who will continue to do so, someone needs to take the responsibility to make sure that these kids aren’t having kids of their own.
Three of Portland, Maine’s middle schools have had a total of 17 reported pregnancies, a number that doesn’t necessarily reflect any abortions or miscarriages. Whether because of outside influences or of their own accord, these students are exploring sexual avenues, and they are likely unaware of what can happen. Not all kids are comfortable approaching their parents about bodily and emotional changes. If a school can provide that service for free and guide them down a healthy path to the future, then allow that program to flourish. This won’t be an enabler for kids who have already made their choice – it’s going to protect them.
But just allowing kids to have a place to talk to someone and get birth control isn’t going to be sufficient. Sexual education classes need to be implemented in younger grades, to dispense unbiased information about sexual activities. They need to be taught the benefits of abstinence, condoms and birth control pills, as well as the negative aspects of sexual promiscuity, STDs, and the emotional and physical effects of engaging in intercourse at such a young age.
There must be a hands-on, personal approach. Pretending that kids will learn about sex through osmosis is dangerous. Unless they have a well-rounded and complete education of what is in their future, we’ll have a bunch of preteens fumbling around with condoms, pills and feelings and not knowing what to make of any of it. The information and help can be made available – it’s up to them what they’re going to do with it, but at least they know it’s there.
New rule doesn’t let kids stay kids or parents stay parents
The Northern Light
The Portland School Committee in Portland, Maine, voted recently to allow the clinic at King Middle School to give prescription birth control to students as young as 11 – without parental consent or even knowledge. Under existing rules, parents have to sign a waiver to allow their children to visit the health center – which provides other services like immunizations – but once the waiver is signed, doctor-patient confidentiality means parents are not allowed to find out what their child may have been treated for unless the child specifically tells them.
Somehow, this is supposed to be a good thing.
Faced with seven middle-school pregnancies in the last year alone, the school board clearly decided they had to respond somehow. Fears of abuse taking place at home might mean students would be in greater danger if parents were notified of their kids being given birth control, and if the school wants to help, all it can do is keep the girls from becoming pregnant as well. And the fact that some of these middle-school students are getting pregnant means some of them are clearly having unprotected sex, so obviously, something needs to be done.
This isn’t it.
The vast majority of parents, at this particular school or otherwise, are loving and responsible. Cutting all parents – not just the irresponsible or abusive ones – out of such a major aspect of their children’s lives is nothing short of unconscionable. These aren’t high-school kids we’re talking about here, confused by hormones but nearing the age of majority. Middle-school children are exactly that: children. They depend on their parents for everything, and it’s the job of those parents, not the school, to raise these kids. Sex, whatever your views on it, is huge, and yet at King Middle School, it’s the one area in which parents have effectively been told to butt out.
What’s worse, birth-control pills themselves hold their own dangers. According to a Reuters report in August, a recent study showed that oral contraceptives can damage bone health in adults. Children’s bodies, especially their skeletal systems, are still developing. Going on the pill at such a young age could cause permanent damage to this or other parts of the body.
And although simply having options available may not actually encourage kids to have sex earlier, access to birth control could create a false sense of security that would lead to more sexual experimentation, along with its physical and emotional repercussions.
When the condoms fail, or missed birth-control doses result in a pregnant child, or an STD slips through because even “safe” sex is never completely safe, who has to deal with the consequences? Not the school, but the children – and their parents, who will have to deal with a choice they weren’t allowed to make in the first place.