An Oregon school district plans to offer condoms to students
starting in sixth grade as part of an updated sex education
policy aimed at decreasing teen pregnancy, sparking debate
over whether 11-year-olds are too young for such a programme.
The plan by the rural Gervais School District comes after a
2013 survey by nursing students found that 7 percent of
district high school girls had experienced pregnancy and 42
percent of students reported "never" or "sometimes" using
"Over the past few decades, teen pregnancy in our community
has remained somewhat constant, but higher than the board
felt comfortable with," Superintendent Rick Hensel said in a
The district school board approved the sex education policy
earlier this month for sixth through 12th graders in the tiny
town north of Salem, and Hensel said administrators would
hash out details this summer to be implemented in the fall.
The board decided to include middle school students because
the middle and high schools are close in proximity and run by
the same administration - and because middle school girls are
getting pregnant too.
"Every few years, a middle school student either becomes
pregnant or is associated with a pregnancy," he said. "The
board felt that the curriculum should reach the students of
the middle school."
But some question whether sixth graders, who are typically 11
or 12 years old, need condoms.
"I have to say that sixth grade to me seems incredibly
young," said Amita Vyas, assistant Professor and Director of
the Maternal and Child Health Program at George Washington
University. "We really don't see high rates of sexual
activity when we are looking at 13 and under."
But she said educating young students and keeping them
engaged with teachers and parents is a useful way to decrease
Though the board voted unanimously, Hensel alluded that it
was not easy for some members who cast votes "in some cases
contrary to their individual beliefs."
He said abstinence remained the foundation of the curriculum
and that students would be required to speak with a trained
teacher, counselor, nurse or administrator before receiving
Though the curriculum is designed after a programme for 13-18
years olds, University of Michigan professor of nursing
Antonia Villarruel said that if younger students were having
sex, it made sense to include them.
"If you put it in that context, no, it's not too early to
give condoms," she said. "The evidence clearly shows it
doesn't encourage sexual behavior but actually helps to delay