Published June 30, 2010
The superintendent of a Provincetown, Mass., school district is apologizing to parents for what she calls a misunderstanding over a condom availability policy.
In an e-mailed letter sent out on Tuesday, Superintendent Beth Singer said that the district will clarify that elementary school-age students won't be able to get a condom if they request one from the school nurse.
The condom distribution policy -- approved by the Provincetown school board unanimously on June 8 -- allows all district students to get access to free condoms without parental notification and does not specify a minimum age or grade level for who can be given condoms.
The open-ended language and lack of parental control resulted in the attention of conservative organizations and national media. Massachusetts Family Institute said the move would give children as young as 6 access to condoms. "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 group stated in a press release.
Calls from as far away as California began pouring in, in opposition to the policy and even Massachusetts’ Democratic 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.
Singer on Tuesday said the policy was intended only to give condoms to sexually active students. The policy also requires students to request the condoms from the school nurse, who also will provide counseling and information on birth control, including abstinence. The nurse also can deny condoms to students for many reasons, including age.
Singer said that rewording of the language was necessary after it was "so badly understood and misrepresented by the media" in recent weeks. "It is especially troublesome to me and to our school community that this is likely to have been your introduction to the policy," she wrote,according to The Cape Cod Times.
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 Provincetown School Committee is set to meet on July 13 to review the policy's language and adopt a minimum grade level for students to receive condoms, according to the Cape Code Times. The policy is expected to go into effect in September.
Fox News' Rick Folbaum, Ed Barnes and The Associated Press contributed to this report.