SAD 61 considers free condom handouts at LRHS

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

Should condoms be made accessible at no charge to students at Lake Region High School?

School nurse Karry Joly, R.N., supports the idea.

Joly proposed the idea to the SAD 61 School Board’s Personnel Committee, which approved the concept by a 3–1 vote.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kathy Beecher said the committee member casting the dissenting vote did not express a reason for opposing the measure.

Now, the proposal will be discussed at the full board level this Monday night, March 4 at 7 p.m. at Lake Region Vocational Center. Directors will decide whether to allow the  practice, and will likely discuss “how” the program will work. Superintendent Beecher said three to four outside agencies, such as Planned Parenthood, would provide the condoms at no charge to SAD 61.

The proposal was first unveiled before the Personnel Committee last spring because distribution of condoms by the school nurse would be a change in the individual’s job description.

“Karry’s feeling is that it is her job to keep kids safe and healthy,” Superintendent Beecher said.

The committee did discuss whether parents would be asked to “sign off” to allow their sons or daughters access to the free condoms. Members rejected the concept, feeling students again could see it as an obstacle to gain personal protection from unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted diseases.

“Karry has heard from students about their concerns. In rural areas like ours, there are really no confidential places students can go to access condoms. Places where kids can get them, like Hannaford, there is a very good chance that the person waiting on them will be people they know, and that makes some kids very uncomfortable,” Superintendent Beecher said.

Some school officials remember a time when LRHS did distribute condoms, Beecher said, but the practice ended “likely due to changes in personnel.”

King Middle School in Portland made national news in 2007 when the school committee there approved making prescription contraceptives available through the school’s clinic. The measure was in response to 17 cases of pregnancy over a seven-year period. Condoms are also available.

Across the country, schools have made birth control available to students. In Philadelphia last December, condom dispensers in the nurse’s office were installed in 22 city high schools, where students as young as 14 could access free condoms to combat an “epidemic” of sexually-transmitted disease among the city’s teenagers.

According to Advocates for Youth, a nonprofit organization that advocates for sexual health among young people, there are at least 418 schools nationwide providing condoms.

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