Barrington Flemming, Gleaner Writer
President of the Jamaica Teachers' Association and principal of Spanish Town High School, Clayton Hall, has brushed aside suggestions for the distribution of condoms in schools, labelling it both unethical and illegal.
The suggestion was made by Chairman of the National Family Planning Board, Dr Sandra Knight, who was quoted as calling for minors to be given access to condoms and other reproductive health services.
The call came in light of the discovery that in one Corporate Area high school, some 60 per cent of the students in one grade are parents.
The discovery also spurred a response from children's rights lobbyist and attorney-at-law Margarette Macaulay, who said it was time for the country to have a serious debate about distributing condoms in schools.
But speaking with The Gleaner, Hall argued that while it would be acceptable if the intention were for students to be educated on the proper use of condoms, it would not be good for the schools to become dispensaries for condoms as it carries legal implications.
"I am not going to be party to the distribution of condoms in schools. Legally, persons under the age of 16 are not entitled to be having sex, so to provide them with the apparatus to engage in sexual activity is an erroneous activity and would be in breach of the law of the land, which prohibits them from having sex."
He further argued, "Schools exist to facilitate education and other types of socialisation. So we teach them about sexual and reproductive health and the proper use of the condom. But to be dispenser is unethical and illegal, as most students in school would not have attained the requisite age for legal sexual activity."
Support for hall
Hall was supported by guidance counsellor at the Ministry of Education Region Three, Allison Cooke Hawthorne, who also rejected the idea, saying that issuing of condoms would not solve the problem but heighten it.
"I do not believe that condoms ought to be made available or be distributed in schools. Schools engender learning and the teaching of sexual and reproductive health is good, but to take it to the level of distributing condoms does not fall within the remit of schools."
Cooke Hawthorne said Jamaica's youth are faced with music, television programmes and advertisements that are laced with sexual content, which spur greater interest in sex and the desire among them to want to engage in sexual activity at an early age.
...and public highschools is sex. Further, what message would distributing condoms at highschool say about sex? A majority of parents would agree that it sends a negative message out to impressionable teenagers, that being sexually active is socially acceptable and even expected. In Seventeen Magazine the article “Sexual Reality” by Anne Fearon it states that most school officials, and even doctors agree, that it does not send that message at all. It promotes safe sex. Two-thirds of all STD’s occur in people 25-years-old and younger. Some people say this startling statistic is caused by teaching any objectives in health classes that are not abstinence. They believe that making condoms available upon request and teaching different forms of contraception promote sexual promiscuity. I agree with Dr. Victor Strasburger, of the New Mexico School of Medicine, who claims “Until Americans get over their hysteria about giving teenagers access to birth control, we will continue to have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the western world. If we want to attack this problem, we must not be afraid to fight it. Each year, an estimated 3 million adolescents are infected with STDs, accounting for 25 percent of the estimated 12 million new STDs occurring annually in the United States. In 1997, one-half of all new HIV infections in the United States occurred in people under...