Thursday, October 18, 2007

Pills, Patches, and Condoms

I read on MSN that a Maine middle school is going to offer contraception, including birth control pills and contraceptive patches, to its students. Some of the students are as young as eleven years old. Um..I have a problem with that. I have an eleven year old in middle school and if she were going to the school health center for birth control pills I think I would need to know that.

A supporter of the soon-to-be passed birth control policy basically says kids might not talk to their parents about sex and birth control or that the kid might not feel comfortable approaching his or her parent. Ok. Some parents suck at talking to their kids but it's still not the school's job to fill that role. How about offering communication classes to families to help them deal with that issue?

My daughter's middle school has an Interventionist Specialist whom I can go to with any concerns I have. If I feel I cannot approach my daughter, then the Interventionist Specialist will do it for me in a safe and non-threatening way. It's family therapy light. But, we don't have that issue. We talk about boys and dating in an only-slightly-uncomfortable-for-me kind of way.

Another big problem I have with the birth control policy, that the article does not discuss, is the legal question of how a school is going to prescribe a minor child birth control pills without parental consent. Students must first get written parental consent to be treated at the center, but the treatment is confidential. I would think at some point, the parents are going to know. At some point, the parents need to know. I certainly would want to know if my daughter is having sex and needs contraception or - worse - if she has an STD or is pregnant. Honestly, if my daughter is having sex and I don't know it, then something is amiss in my household that no school policy can fix.

I know some of my readers have middle schoolers and a lot of you have children. What do you think about this? Does it irk you too or do you think it's good policy?


Proto Attorney said...

When my idiot cousin was 12, she had a pregnancy scare. My idiot aunt didn't realize she'd been having sex for almost a year, apparently unprotected too. I feel the same repulsion thinking about an 11 year old going and getting her own birth control without her parents knowing it, but geez, if my idiot aunt had been paying attention to her kids in the first place...

I just wonder how 11 year olds even have access to sexual encounters. I know some parents don't have any clue what their kids are doing, or even where they are most of the time, but geez. 11? My parents knew exactly where I was, who with, and what I was doing every minute of the day until I had a driver's license and a car. (That's when you should start passing out the birth control, ahem.)

I dunno, I just think if parents actually gave a crap, talked to their kids, bothered to care, then schools wouldn't have to pass out birth control to middle schoolers. I'm more uncomfortable with pregnant 11 year olds/11 year olds with STDs than I am with kids whose parents don't pay attention to them having access to contraceptives and education about safe sex. I agree, the schools should work on communication with the parents and kids, but it's hard to make parents care in the first place (or not live in denial at the very least).

Zuska said...

I don't have a problem with the policy. At all.

In my view, this policy is not for our kids. It's for a kid who cannot talk to their parents. If a kid is feeling that sex is an appropriate activity at age 11, I'm sorry - but there's a problem with that parenting already. I'm picturing a disinterest. Neglect. I'm not talking about lousy communication skills.

I don't think the school is trying to take my place - or your place. I think they're trying to fill gaps which are already present in families where conversations don't happen - not about anything. The school can't fix that. But perhaps they CAN fix the result of that? They can keep the girls in school, rather than dropping out to give birth?

I've actually given a lot of thought to this issue. I've mostly thought about the high school phase, since my teenage years were absolutely dominated by my parents' discovery that I was sexually active. And it was 100% laced with the Christian Right mentality. I am surprised, sometimes, that I didn't spend my junior and senior years of high school looking for skirts that would fit around an iron chastity belt.

THAT was more harmful than birth control pills handed out at school.

But geez ... I can't imagine the sexually active 11 year old. Boy or girl. I can almost picture E's face if she were handed a condom. The wrinkling of the nose, and the limpifying of the hand as she lets it drop to the floor like so much snot ....

I actually love talking about this issue, too. Trying to keep my comments to an appropriate length ...

Strange Bird said...

I really believe in keeping kids safe and giving them access to the means to do so if their parents aren't willing to do it. Sure, give kids access to free condoms, that's great.

But... birth control pills? In middle school? I would have a really hard time thinking that a school could give children hormones without consulting parents. I'm not sure we really know what the long-term effects of the Pill are, and to give it to a kid who might be taking it for the next 15-20 years is kind of scary.