A rise in sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies has prompted a local high school district to begin distributing condoms to students who have taken a class in health education.
Daly City’s Jefferson Union High School District approved the Condom Availability Program last month, and now the district’s health center is looking for donations to get it off the ground.
The program expands on a pilot program launched in 2009 at Thornton High School. Based on the success of that program, officials from the school district and its Daly City Youth Health Center looked at ways to expand
condom availability to all schools.
“Pregnancies and STDs are down,” school Superintendent Thomas Minshew said. “The kids are coming in and receiving condoms. It works.”
But students will not be able to obtain condoms without first talking to a counselor, said Kim Gillette, director of the Daly City Youth Health Center. That way, she said, counselors will be able to assess whether the students are truly ready for sex and advise them about the proper use of condoms.
Once students have completed a health education class, usually in their freshman year, they can request condoms from the special services counselor, Gillette said.
“There’s been a relatively high rate of chlamydia here at the health center in particular,” Gillette said. “The administration wanted to prevent the spread, so we decided to move forward.”
Currently, students who wish to obtain free condoms must make their way to Gillette’s center, which serves youths between the ages of 13 and 21.
“Providing condoms doesn’t increase sexual activity,” Gillette said. “Health education is around safer sex; you
can’t just teach abstinence, only education.”
Gillette said the district will not pay for the condoms. Instead, it’s looking for donations to get the program up and running. The goal is to begin making condoms available by April 1. By next school year, the district expects to need roughly 30,000 condoms.
The Jefferson Union High School District, which serves 5,000 students at five different high schools throughout Daly City and Pacifica, is not the only district to offer free condoms to students.
San Francisco Unified School District began offering condoms and sex education to students in 1993, following the AIDS epidemic. The program continues today, and seeks to combat the rise in STDs and unwanted pregnancies in youth.
“It’s an important way to have communication with our students around their sexual-health concerns,” said Kevin Gogin, program manager of the San Francisco Unified School District’s school health programs. “And it’s an attempt to keep them safer in their practices.”
High schools in Redwood City and Contra Costa County also offer free condoms to students. Nationally, Philadelphia and Minneapolis schools began offering condoms this year.