Montgomery County High Schools Supplying Condoms to Students

Hurelayn Abdu, Editor-in-chief

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MCPS started off this school year with a pilot program that provides free condoms to students at Wheaton, Northwood, Gaithersburg and Watkins Mill high schools, institutions that have student health centers. However, on September 11, the board of education voted unanimously to spread this program to all 26 MCPS high schools.

The board requested that the district form an agreement with the Montgomery County health department to provide condoms to health rooms and health centers in all high schools by October 1st. This decision comes after a surge in sexually transmitted diseases in the county. This year alone there has been a 17.5% increase in cases of chlamydia, with 4,029 cases reported, and a 29% increase in cases of gonorrhea, with 226 cases reported.

While the data is in line with the national averages reported by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), locally it is the highest it has been in ten years. This led county officials to describe the trend as a public health crisis and take action.

The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services offered the following explanation in a “Frequently Asked Questions” section on their website. “In response to the significant rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Montgomery County and especially among 15–19 year old residents, DHHS proposed that condoms and STI prevention education be made available to high school students.”

The site added that “This program aligns with MCPS’ broader strategy of providing resources and supports to students to make safe, well-informed choices. Other programs that reinforce this strategy include the annual Choose Respect Montgomery conference that promotes respect in dating relationships and raises awareness of teen dating violence, as well as the comprehensive health education curriculum that emphasizes the life skills of goal-setting; decision making; identifying beliefs, attitudes, and motivations; assessing information; and advocacy for personal, family, and community health.”

While this is a new practice for MCPS, school districts across the country have implemented similar programs and seen positive results. Washington D.C. public schools have been providing condoms to students since 1992. According to WTOP, the District found that students weren’t going to the health room to ask for condoms. So, school officials came up with a program where students are trained to become “Wrap MCs,” student representatives who educate other students about sexual health and distribute condoms, which, they say, has proven to be more effective.

Paint Branch students have varying responses to MCPS’ new plan. Junior Abenezer Ephrem said, “ Since the STD rate has gone up, I’m not surprised, and I think it’s a good thing.”
Offering similar thoughts is senior Alejandro Diaz Meinecke, who said, “ I think it’s a good idea, because kids are going to be experimenting.” Diaz Meinecke added that he thinks that the new policy “should be publicized more.”

On the other hand, some have different feelings on the plan. Junior Julia Vital had a different perspective stating that she “doesn’t think it (the STD rate) is going to change, because they already have access to condoms and they’re not using it.”

Fellow junior Zarina Guzman offered similar thoughts, saying, “if they weren’t already using them what makes you think they’re going to use them now?”

According the The Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, students will be able to obtain condoms, which will come in a bag that contains five, by asking “…to speak with the school community health nurse (SCHN). STI education is considered part of the reproductive health counseling process that includes educating high school students that latex condoms should be used to prevent STIs.”

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