The distribution of birth control in schools is a remarkably controversial topic that has many parents and professionals at odds. Each side of the debate has valid points to consider, making the decision difficult for school districts.
Distribution of Birth Control in Schools
Each school district is responsible for approving or denying the distribution of birth control in schools based on several factors:
- Type of birth control
- Age of students allowed to access it
- Parental involvement
Type of Birth Control
Many schools provide condoms for students and have done so for a few years. However, some school systems are prescribing pills and patches to female students. This brings up a troublesome argument that has many communities reeling, especially when it comes to age and parental involvement.
The law protects a patient's right to privacy and this appears to apply to children receiving prescription birth control through their schools' health clinics. Parents may be left out of the loop when it comes to their children's sexual activity and their need for prescriptions for birth control.
Students' Age and Parental Involvement
First Coast News.com features a story about King Middle School in Portland, Maine. Students attending the facility are 11 to 13 years old. The students' right to privacy is protected by law and many parents would not be aware of their children's prescriptions. This brings up complicated issues including:
- Religious beliefs
- Medical concerns
The family's religious beliefs do not appear to be a factor in the distribution of birth control. Since parents do not have access to their children's medical information in the school health clinic, they may not be aware of their children's use of birth control, which may be against their religion.
Medical concerns are significant because distributing birth control in schools is supposed to protect students from disease and unwanted pregnancy. Prescription hormone birth control does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, very young girls may be at greater risk for developing certain types of cancer if they take prescription hormones.
Parental involvement is critical and leaving parents out of the loop is a significant problem. Parents are responsible for the health and wellbeing of their children and many believe that this should include sexual activity and birth control.
It is important to note that parents must approve access to the schools' respective health clinics. They read and sign a permission form, either providing or denying access to the facilities. Parents who are concerned about the distribution of birth control to tweens and teens may want to deny access to the clinics. Those who approve access may want to follow up with their children on a regular basis with open communication.
Funding is another concern for school districts. Providing birth control for students is a costly endeavor but the cost of unwanted pregnancies and illnesses can be far greater. Funds typically come from a number of sources including but not limited to Medicade, state grants, and federal grants as well as programs like Child Health Plus.
The complex issue is further complicated by trying to define the role of the school system. Ideally, schools educate students while offering them information about the resources available to them. Parents and caretakers can follow through by helping their children make decisions about sexual activity and birth control. The process does not always work so seamlessly.
Recognizing that students are likely to become sexually active is a realistic perspective. But does it necessitate the distribution of birth control in schools? Some believe that distributing birth control sends a message to students that sexual activity is acceptable. Others believe that the practice is a viable approach to protecting students from unwanted pregnancies.