LRHS Condom policy gains first reading approval

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Trying to strike a “balance” between respecting parental rights and keeping teenagers “safe” if they are sexually active, the SAD 61 School Board gave first reading approval to a free condom distribution program at Lake Region High School.

A second reading approval is required before the policy is enacted. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Monday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Great Room at Lake Region Vocational Center.

Before the Jan. 13 board meeting, Robert Howe of Bridgton made a statement during the “Public Comment” on agenda items. He felt “sympathy” for the school board and teachers because they have to address societal issues and problems, which in his era, were dealt with in the home.

“You are dealing with a lot of stuff you shouldn’t have to. It’s a different time and place than when I was growing up,” Howe said. “I know you want to help the kids, but are you enabling parents to walk away from their responsibility?”

Howe added that unless people are pushed to take responsibility for themselves and their families, within two generations if no change occurs, “America we have been won’t be no longer.”

Casco Director Phil Shane initially tried to table the matter for the second time since the issue was raised late last year, but his motion failed to gain a second.

Naples Director Erica Pond-Green, who chairs the Curriculum Committee, said the group took into serious consideration comments made by the public at previous meetings.

“We tried to come up with a respectful policy that took into account both sides,” she said. “We feel we’ve struck a good balance to allow access to kids to be safe, and at the same time being respectful to parents, who may want to discuss things in their own homes.”

The “balance” is to offer parents/legal guardians with the opportunity to opt out of the condom distribution program by simply signing a form that will be included in the new school year packet — the same packet parents pick up before school starts in the fall, which includes the student’s schedule, laptop agreement and other consent forms.

A list of “opt out” students will be compiled and kept in the nurse’s office. If a parent does not sign the “opt out” form, then their child will have access to free condoms.

Before the school nurse gives a condom to a student, the nurse will offer information about abstinence and safe sex practices. Students will be allowed to see the nurse for the purpose of receiving a condom during free time, not during class time.

The nurse will give preference to treating students with illnesses and injuries before counseling students and dispensing condoms.

Sebago Director Richard Merritt suggested that the packet include two parental forms regarding condom access — opt in or opt out, thus passing the “responsibility” onto parents/guardians to notify the school that their son/daughter has permission to access free condoms.

“Don’t let them (parents) put their heads in the sand. I agree with Mr. Howe. Parents need to take some responsibility,” Merritt said.

Naples Director Beth Chaplin questioned the procedure if a child resides at two homes due to divorce. Packets are sent to both parents, Superintendent of Schools Kathy Beecher said.

The superintendent noted that condom distribution would occur when the school nurse has time to do so. If a substitute nurse is on duty and has no time to follow the necessary steps, then the student will be told to return on another day.

Merritt also wondered if the school district would be liable in regards to a defective condom. Lake Region High School will receive its condoms from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Naples Director Janice Barter responded that the district would be no more liable than other commercial distributors, such as Rite Aid.

“It is not unusual for schools to offer condoms. It’s happening at schools across the country,” Pond-Green said.

Casco Director Stan Buchanan agreed that it’s sad that schools are being asked “to do more and more parenting” but also believes schools must keep the safety of a child “at heart.”

“If we don’t do this, who will?” he asked. “It’s sad. It’s unfortunate.”

Providing access to free condoms passed by an 11-1 vote (Shane opposed).

 

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