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Changes to condom proposal promised

P-town board to revise for clarity

By Jack Nicas
Globe Correspondent / July 1, 2010

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A week after Provincetown schools sparked a furor over a new condom policy, the superintendent has assured parents that school nurses would not dispense condoms to any student who asks, despite the open wording of the rule.

“As I listened to the media’s interpretation of our policy, it became clear that it is vulnerable to being misunderstood,’’ Superintendent Beth Singer wrote in a letter to parents earlier this week.

“It was never directed to elementary students. We never would have issued condoms to elementary-aged children, nor did we expect them to even know about this.

“Therefore, we will revise the policy for better clarity,’’ said the letter, read to a Globe reporter yesterday by School Committee member Carrie Notaro.

Singer said in an interview yesterday that changes to the policy are up to the School Committee. Two committee members have said the new policy would limit condoms to fifth-graders and older.

Notaro said students that young should be able to get condoms in school.

“It’s the reality,’’ Notaro said. “‘It’s not a comfortable reality, it’s not a walk-in-the-park reality, but it’s the reality. Kids are going to have sex whether you want them to or not.’’

Singer said the policy was drafted for sexually active students, which makes it impossible to assign an age limit.

“I don’t have a cutoff, because if I were to say to you ‘age appropriate’ is seventh grade, and we have a student that’s sexually active before that, we can’t deny them protection,’’ she said.

Singer blamed the media for hysteria over first-graders hypothetically acquiring condoms.

“Young children are not interested in having sex, nor are they interested in having condoms,’’ she said. “And to be honest, I’m kind of grossed out by that whole concept.’’

Notaro and committee chairman Peter Grosso said they also want to keep the part of the policy that allows children to receive condoms despite parental objection. Singer likes the provision because it promotes more protection, but said parents need to be included.

“I think it’s possible to come up with some language that does both,’’ she said.

A majority of the five-member School Committee must approve a new policy for it to take effect in the fall. Singer said a meeting is not yet scheduled.

Provincetown, which caps the top of the Cape Cod peninsula, is known for its summer tourists. Town officials said outrage over the policy has largely come from outside the town.

“If most people take the time to read what was proposed, they would understand it better,’’ said Selectman Francis J. Santos. “It’s just gotten so much bad press.’’

After the policy was reported last week, talk show hosts and conservative groups took aim. Governor Deval Patrick phoned Singer to express his disapproval.

Officials now hope promises to change the policy quell the commotion.

Paul Reville, the state education secretary, said yesterday in a statement that he was “pleased to hear that the superintendent and school leaders are working to revise their policy to address the issue of age appropriateness of condom distribution and parental involvement.’’

But one of the policy’s biggest critics, Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, was still not satisfied with the proposed age limit.

“This is a slight move in the right direction,’’ he said. “Nonetheless, to distribute condoms to 10-year-olds is still unwarranted, and to deny parental consent is a real violation of parents’ rights.’’

Globe correspondent Jack Nicas can be reached at jnicas@globe.com.

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