In an unusual move, San Francisco Unified School District leaders withdrew a proposal that would allow condoms to be distributed in middle schools from Tuesday night’s Board of Education agenda after receiving a handful of letters from concerned parents.
Hours before the board was scheduled to weigh in on the proposed policy, the district decided to delay its vote. The decision was reached after no more than a dozen letters were sent to the district and board members — a surprisingly small amount of opposition to trigger a delay after the San Francisco Examiner first reported the proposed wellness policy change on Feb. 1.
“We had communication from some members of the community [who] said they felt they didn’t really have enough time to engage with the process and engage with the policy,” Superintendent Richard Carranza told the Examiner before the board meeting.
District leaders said Tuesday night that a person who wrote to the district with concerns was unable to attend the board meeting because of the lunar new year. Carranza added that district leaders will continue to discuss the policy change with parents and bring the item before the board at a later, undetermined date.
Carranza also said district leaders will continue to discuss the policy change with parents and bring the item before the board at a later, undetermined date. The policy change was introduced by the superintendent at a Jan. 12 board meeting and was discussed at a board committee earlier this month.
Public high schools in San Francisco have distributed condoms for more than two decades, and school districts in Oakland and Los Angeles already have similar policies to distribute condoms in middle schools.
In addition to supplying condoms at middle schools, the district wants to update the language of the policy to clarify that parents cannot opt their kids out of the condom distribution program. That would bring the policy into compliance with state law, which allows a minor to consent to medical care related to preventing or treating a pregnancy.
District leaders said rewording the policy has led to misunderstandings among some parents, who were unaware the state already prevents parents from exempting their kids from the program. Additionally, condoms will not be distributed in middle schools before a student meets with a nurse or social worker, district leaders noted.
“I think there’s a lot of misinformation,” Carranza said. “In some communities, the word has gone out that we’re just wantonly giving out condoms, and that’s not the case at all. … If students want to access that, they have to meet with a nurse or a social worker, they have to get some counseling and then they’re provided with the materials if and only after they’ve done that.”
Leaders at the school district have been exploring the idea of distributing condoms in middle schools for several years at the recommendation of public health officials and school nurses, who noticed students are increasingly sexually active at a younger age, said Kevin Gogin, director of safety and wellness for the SFUSD’s Student, Family and Community Support Department. In fact, a student survey conducted last year found that 5 percent of middle school students in San Francisco’s public schools are sexually active.
“We have students who are sexually active, and we have students in middle school who are considering being sexually active, and we know that getting someone to talk to about this [is important], and we believe that we have the appropriate staff to have those conversations with them,” Gogin said.
Condoms are provided to the schools from the San Francisco Department of Public Health, and are packaged with educational and instructional materials.
Meanwhile, the district plans to conduct additional outreach regarding the policy change.