At-large City Councilor Ayanna Pressley today called for a comprehensive sex-education program and for easier availability of condoms in Boston schools.
"Not taking action, now that would be controversial. It would also be cowardly and counter to what I believe the role of government is - to solve problems and make people's lives better," she said at a hearing.
Pressley said she was not advocating teaching young people how to have sex. "Our young people already know how to have sex," she said. She said she would want any program to include discussions of abstinence. "I wish our young people would wait as long as possible to become sexually active, wait until they're older, more emotionally mature, better prepared to deal with the consequences and in a healthy, safe and exclusive relationship with a loving partner. But a solution based on wishing our young people would wait to have sex and doing nothing else is no solution at all." [Pressley's complete opening statement]
Dr. Barbara Ferrer, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission, said 54% of Boston students are sexually active, and that of those 55% report having three or more partners, that 30% of sexually active students do not use condoms. The result, she said, is Boston has seen a 74% increase in chlamydia over the past ten years.
Ferrer said nine of the city's eleven public high schools now have health centers at which students can obtain condoms - but only if their parents have first registered them for overall services at those centers.
Two members of a pro-chastity group called Pure at Heart - a Harvard student and Deborah O'Hara-Rusckowski, a lecturer at Northeastnern's nursing school, said "throwing condoms" at kids would do nothing to lower STI rates, that condoms are not 100% effective at preventing AIDS.
Pressley countered that seat belts don't prevent 100% of deaths in car crashes, but people are still urged to wear them. City Councilor Mike Ross said he is "very concerned" that, given that some students are going to have sex no matter what teachers tell them, the group is proposing taking away the one protection those students would have.
C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, said condom distribution would violate the separation of church and state by forcing Catholic students to disregard the teachings of their church and by forcing school nurses - and taxpayers - to do something they are morally opposed to. He also claimed the current health centers were paid for by slashing music and art programs and said that instead of handing out condoms, the schools should spend money teaching abstinence and the importance of "the traditional two-parent family."
Pressley said, however, that ignores the added costs of ignorance in the form of treatment for sexually transmitted diseases and violence and for caring for pregnant teens and their children.