Condoms Placed in Elementary Schools Sparks Online Debate

The decision by Chicago Public Schools to place condoms in schools across the city has sparked debate from many parents.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, under a new policy passed by the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education, schools in the city that teach fifth grade or higher must make condoms available for students in schools. The Sun-Times reported that the condom availability policy will apply to all but a dozen of the city's 600 public schools.

While speaking with the Sun-Times, Maria Serrano, whose daughter is a sophomore in high school in Chicago, criticized the decision by Chicago Public Schools and said that schools in the city should be more focused on providing students with sexual education.

"My question is, 'Oh my God, how is it that CPS wants to give condoms to kids?'" Serrano said while speaking to the Sun-Times. "They are 10 years old, 11, 12. They are kids. So why is CPS thinking about providing condoms? Why not provide them information, and at the end give them the resource of a condom when they are prepared to use those resources they want to provide. For me, this isn't the best option. They are doing things backwards."

Serrano, who works with Healing to Action, an organization that advocates for increased sexual education in schools, also told the Sun-Times that she believes Chicago Public Schools should inform parents of the condom availability program as she only learned about it through her advocacy work.

"Why not educate us as parents? In my case I come from Mexico, it is taboo for [kids to] talk to parents about these topics. In communities that are majority Latino, we are not prepared to talk about these topics with our kids," Serrano told the Sun-Times.

Chicago will put free condoms in its elementary schools.

What about taking on the gangs so children can walk to school without the fear of being shot instead?

— Andrew Pollack (@AndrewPollackFL) July 6, 2021

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Chicago Public Schools Press Secretary James Gherardi wrote: "CPS recently adopted a new sexual health policy that includes improvements to the district's sexual education curriculum and a progressive menstrual product and condom distribution policy that provides students — most of whom are low income — with access to important products that keep them safe and healthy. The science is clear: providing an age-appropriate, medically advised and supported, comprehensive sexual health education centered on social-emotional well-being, paired with access to contraceptives can lead to fewer unintended pregnancies, fewer Sexually Transmitted Infections (like HIV/AIDS), and more safe and meaningful relationships.

"Our policy removes barriers to access for both contraceptives and menstruation products and ensures students can discreetly obtain products that they otherwise may not be able to afford or feel comfortable purchasing. The policy will be implemented during the upcoming school year and the district will be sending guidance to principals in the coming weeks about executing the policy in an age-appropriate manner in alignment with the curriculum as well as amplifying communications about the program components to parents."

In addition to Serrano, several others have expressed disagreement with the condom availability across social media.

Twitter user Andrew Pollack, whose daughter died in the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, wrote on Twitter, "Chicago will put free condoms in its elementary schools. What about taking on the gangs so children can walk to school without the fear of being shot instead?"

Pollack also published the same post on Facebook, which received numerous comments from individuals that also criticized the condom availability policy.

Twitter user Chris Trezza wrote on Twitter, "This is outrageous!" in response to the Chicago Public Schools new policy.

This is outrageous!...Fifth graders will have access to condoms in Chicago elementary schools next month. One parent reacts: 'Oh my God ... they are kids.'

— Chris Trezza (@trezzsc) July 6, 2021

Despite the criticism from parents, Chicago Public Schools Chief Health Officer Kenneth Fox told the Sun-Times that the policy is meant to "make condoms available to students for if and when they think they need them."

"I would expect that not everybody is going to be completely on board right from the start, but I do think society has changed," Fox told the Sun-Times.

In addition to making condoms available in schools, the new policy which passed in December, will be coupled with improved sexual education courses.

According to the Sun-Times, the Chicago Public Schools sex-ed curriculum states, "CPS stresses that choosing to not have sex is the norm for 5th graders. Parents/guardians should be notified by their school if a condom demonstration will be provided." The new policy is set to go into effect when the new school year begins in late-August.

In 2020, Vermont became the first state to pass a bill making free condoms available in middle and high schools in the state.

Updated 07/07/2021, 9:17 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include a statement from a spokesperson for Chicago Public Schools.

Chicago Public Schools
Public schools in Chicago that teach fifth grade and above will now be providing students will free access to condoms under a new policy. Above, a sign in a stairway at King Elementary School that reads "Keep Your Hands To Yourself" during the coronavirus pandemic on September 8, 2020 in Chicago. Scott Olson/Getty