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Montgomery Co. Public Schools Expand Free Condom Program

Montgomery County Schools began the school year by offering free condoms at four high schools before expanding countywide. (Pixabay)
Montgomery County Schools began the school year by offering free condoms at four high schools before expanding countywide. (Pixabay)
September 13, 2018

ROCKVILLE, Md. – After seeing a double-digit surge in chlamydia and gonorrhea, the Montgomery County school board voted unanimously Tuesday to offer condoms at all of its high schools.

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show a continuous rise of sexually transmitted diseases nationwide.

In Montgomery County, sexually transmitted infection cases have reached a 10-year high, which prompted Jill Ortman-Fouse, an at-large member of the Montgomery County Board of Education, to propose the resolution making condoms more accessible in school health rooms and clinics.

"The research shows that having condoms available coupled with sexual health education makes a difference, and I think some people were concerned that we're just going to be distributing the condoms or having them in baskets, which they absolutely do in other school systems," she states.

Ortman-Fause says it's a myth that if you talk about sex, young people will have more sex.

Opponents also have argued there is not enough data to show providing condoms will make a difference.

While health department staff will help answer students' questions, Ortman-Fause says she hopes it triggers more conversations at home with families and guardians to discuss the facts about sexual education.

In order to receive a condom, a student will have to go to his or her school's designated health rooms and make the request.

Ortman-Fause says this was a conservative middle ground for concerned parents, even if some students might still be uncomfortable having a discussion about their sexual activities with a health professional.

"That is a concern of mine, but we have to start somewhere, and I think the school system was very concerned about pushback from the community,” she states. “You know, this is simply a public health measure just like vaccinations, but there is a whole lot of cultural baggage attached to it. "

Making condoms available isn't new. The district began the school year offering the contraceptive at four high schools.

Since 2012, Washington, D.C. has been running an initiative to tackle teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases and has expanded those services to all schools in the district.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD