District officials in Topeka Kansas stopped an unofficial program that enabled students to access condoms from the school nurses’ station.
With the permission of a school counselor, a junior at Topeka High School, who is affiliated with the Topeka AIDS Project, began the program by placing a basket of condoms, instructions on their proper usage, and details about free HIV testing at the nurses’ station.1 The student obtained the condoms and the information from the Topeka AIDS Project and reported stocking the basket twice since mid-September. Both times, all or nearly all of the condoms were taken by students within a week. The school counselor explained his decision to allow the condom access, noting that “the safest practice is abstinence, but the reality is that there are teenagers out there who are engaged in sexual activity.”2
A local newspaper article about the availability of condoms in Topeka High School drew attention from district officials who decided to terminate the program immediately. The district’s interim superintendent explained that “the decision to distribute condoms or any type of birth control in a public school is not one that should be made in isolation, [but] must be made with input from Topeka Public School’s board of education, the District Citizen’s Advisory Committee, parents of our students and members of our community.”3
Topeka High School’s principal was initially quoted as having had a conversation with the counselor about the project. However, in his press statement, the interim superintendent stated that the principal had “no knowledge that the program existed” as she was only given “cursory information about the possibility of an AIDS project for students.”4
Reactions from the community varied. One community member suggested that offering condoms “is not the school’s job. It makes it look like you are approving having sex.” Many students, however, felt differently. A sophomore at Topeka High School explained that she would “rather everyone at my school have condoms than everyone be pregnant.”5
While some parents were concerned that condom access in the school removes parents from the picture, others acknowledged that many parents are uninvolved and embarrassed by the topic. One mother of a Topeka High School student said even though the administrators claim talking about sex is a parent’s responsibility, it’s “not realistic” to think all parents will do it. Another parent said she was disappointed that the district stopped the program noting that “the fact that students were availing themselves of condoms shows both awareness and responsibility to their sexual actions.”6
District officials have said they will not seek disciplinary action against either the student or the counselor who started this program but will use it as a “learning experience.” They have suggested that they might be open to a condom availability program in the future if the need is demonstrated and appropriate permission is obtained.
- Ann Marie Bush, “Topeka AIDS Project, Topeka High School hook up for 'health',” Topeka Capital-Journal, 17 October 2007, accessed 22 October 2007, <http://cjonline.com/stories/101707/loc_209158690.shtml>.
- Ann Marie Bush, “USD 501 abstains from THS condoms,” Topeka Capitol-Journal, 18 October 2007, accessed 22 October 2007, <http://cjonline.com/stories/101807/loc_209459238.shtml>.
- Bush, “Topeka AIDS Project.”
- Bush, “USD 501 abstains from THS condoms.”