Published June 24, 2010
When the school board in Provincetown, Mass., voted unanimously on June 8 to provide free condoms to all students in the district without parental notification, no one in the audience objected.
In fact, no one thought much about it.
The school’s health advisory committee, relying on respected studies, worried that children were becoming sexually active at ever younger ages, and it believed protection was the best policy. The proposal had been on the agenda for weeks, and it had been discussed in open session and on local cable channels.
No one objected. In fact, no one thought much of it, says Beth Singer, the school superintendent.
Even after passage, she said, she had only one phone call -- from a parent who wanted to know when it would go into effect so she could talk to her kids about it.
But then on Thursday, the world took notice.
A FOX station in Boston ran a story Wednesday night titled “Condoms at School,” and that's when Singer said everything changed.
By 2 in the morning, the Massachusetts Family Institute hastily issued a statement saying: "Making condoms available to first graders bullies parents to submit to an agenda that promotes sexual promiscuity to innocent children at their most vulnerable age.
"The Provincetown school committee's decision to force this radical and absurd policy demonstrates the lengths to which some will go to emasculate parents' rights and undermine the notion of encouraging children to delay sexual activity.”
Kris Mineau, the Institute's president, called the school board's policy “absurd” and suggested parents file suit to overturn the policy.
Stories in the Boston morning papers and even national media outlets screamed that first graders were going to get condoms on Cape Cod, and calls from as far away as California began pouring in in opposition to the policy, which requires students to request the condoms from the school nurse, who will also provide counseling and information on birth control, including abstinence. The nurse can also deny condoms to students for many reasons, including age.
In Boston, the local radio stations made it the topic of the day.
By noon Gov. Deval Patrick, who is running for re-election against two conservative candidates in November, called to complain about the lack of an age limit and the school’s decision not to tell parents about any requests students may make, even though, he admitted, it was a local issue.
Patrick then called the Associated Press to tell them he had expressed “concern about counseling and access being age appropriate, and, for young kids, that parents be involved.”
He announced that Singer promised to “walk this back a bit.”
At 1:42 the AP ran the story.
At 3 p.m., according to Singer's secretary, the school board offices were facing “shell shock” from the number of people who had called.
At 4 p.m. the school board cracked:
“I guess the biggest thing [generating controversy] is that it’s for elementary school kids, but where do we draw the line?” School Committee Chairman Peter Grosso told the Boston Globe. “We’re going to revisit it."
He said discussion would likely center around setting a minimum age for eligibility. But he promised that there would be some access for elementary school kids.
Early Thursday morning Singer told Fox that she “knew the policy wouldn’t work in every school district around the country, but that in Provincetown it’s the correct policy in order to protect kids.”
When called late in the day for a final comment on the course of events, her secretary said she was still on the phone and would take a while to call back to talk about the changes.
Fox News' Rick Folbaum contributed to this report.