OTR Interviews

Massachusetts school considering free condoms for 12-year-olds

A Massachusetts school committee has given first-step approval to a policy that would make condoms available to students as young as 12

 

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," March 16, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Free condoms for a 12-year-olds -- sound shocking? The controversial plan is on its way to becoming a reality in a Massachusetts school system. The Springfield school committee is considering making condoms available to students as young as 12-years-old. The proposal has already passed its first vote. So why do so many people think this is a good idea? Peter Goonan, reporter for "The Republican" joins us in Springfield. Good evening, Peter.

PETER GOONAN, REPORTER FOR "THE REPUBLICAN": Good evening, Greta.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tell me, is this a program that people are in support of, and how did it happen to come about?

GOONAN: I think it's very mixed right now. That is quite evident with online newspaper, Masslive.com. The comments really do seem to be split. You are either very in favor of it or very opposed. It really goes back and forth. It's been going back and forth with comments, very strong comments, long comments. People very upset or not happy but just glad that something is being done. That's some folks. And then other folks are saying, no, we can't do this.

VAN SUSTEREN: Has there been an incident or series of incidents that have provoked a discussion to include 12-year-olds in this?

GOONAN: No. What happened was they wanted to have it in high schools, starting so young, they wanted it in the middle schools, too. They figured out that is 12-year-olds and up. That 12-year-old age is what really caused a lot of stir in our area.

VAN SUSTEREN: As I understand it, there is some discussion, parents could opt in for the children. But now the way it's drafted parents will have to specifically opt out. So if you are parent that doesn't want this or you are busy and work and didn't know this was happening, although it's gained so much attention in the community. It's automatic unless you opt out?

GOONAN: Yes. And one of the school committee members for quite some time in a subcommittee meeting argued that parents should actually sign permission for the child to get the condoms. But the supporters said you are not going to get all these parents to sign in. So we're going to assume that they are OK with it unless they opt out, deny permission for their children to have condoms.

VAN SUSTEREN: Controversy within the committee is a committee of six that was 5-to-1 for this. It doesn't sound like there was any -- there was very little dissention within the committee that this was a good idea.

GOONAN: Prior to that vote, a couple of members that did end up voting for it had reservations about it. One of them, no, all parents should sign in, sign a consent for their children, but then she came around and agreed with it. Another committee member said it might be personally against his own beliefs but he thought it was for the best interests of students. So after quite a lengthy discussion, it was five to one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Do any of the people on this committee have 12-year-old children in the school?

GOONAN: I don't know, to tell you the truth. They are different ages, middle-aged and older. The mayor, he is the chairman of the school committee and he does have younger children. And he was in favor of it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Peter, thank you. And we'll be watching this story. I'm suspicious this one is going to get pretty heated.

GOONAN: Thank you, Greta.