The news article which greeted readers of Thursday’s Wisconsin State Journal–above the fold–regarding Madison West High School students who this fall will receive education about sexual health along with free condoms, will surely be applauded by many in our city. It was a dose of sanity about health issues and teenagers that too often gets pushed aside.
Too often the issue of sex education becomes a one-way lane to only talking about abstinence. While there are legitimate reasons to encourage teens to wait for their emotional growth to match their bodies, it is also incumbent on schools to address the reality of what is actually occurring for many of our youth.
Make no mistake the result from this plan by West High is a major step in what needs to happen so to normalize conversations about sex and contraceptives. The topic is not only about unwanted pregnancy but also of preventing sexually transmitted diseases, an even more importance topic.
What is so off-putting from the nay-sayers to this plan is the hypocrisy that needs to be pointed out. It is offensive to hear people or groups who oppose reproductive health care services or sex education also then champion banning abortions. When there is proper education, and the means to stem the likelihood of pregnancy, the need to consider an abortion is reduced. That should delight conservatives.
My readers know before it even happens that some letter writer to the paper will offer the ‘gemstone of logic’ that if we provide a bat and ball to young people they will just want to play baseball. The fact is that teaching just abstinence is not in any way sufficient to address the health needs of many teenagers, regardless of how we may wish them to live and act during those years.
What I found dispiriting in the news story was the lack of programming of this type at other schools statewide.
The state Department of Public Instruction estimated in 2016 that 6.9% of high schools in the state provided free condoms, based on a weighted survey of high school principals. The decision for the pilot comes after an increase in sexually transmitted infections among youths nationwide, statewide and at West High School.
No one should consider this policy move to be one where there is an attempt to promote or urge sexual behavior to occur. What can be said with certainty is that West High is working to help students make responsible and healthy decisions if they choose to be sexually active. That is what matters the most.
It would be a solid move for other school districts around Wisconsin to start having the needed conversations that would lead to their programming of this kind. Students everywhere would benefit.