Vermont Is The First State To Require Condom Access In Middle And High Schools

by Erica Gerald Mason
Keith Brofsky/Getty

The measure was put in place to help prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy

Hear that? It’s the sound of some haters screaming into the void. Their distress is because Vermont has become the first state to require that all students have access to condoms in middle and high schools.

The law, which was created in an effort to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy, was signed by the state’s governor last year but not until this fall have actual condoms been actually required in all actual schools.

Technically, the law went into effect in July, however, the Vermont Agency of Education just released its’ official parameters on the distribution of condoms in all middle and high schools.

“Condoms should be available in locations that are safe and readily accessible for students, without barriers to obtaining condoms or stigma surrounding access (e.g., should be available through health office or classroom, athletic trainer’s office, guidance office or other locations students can comfortably access),” the guidance from the state recommends.

According to Today Health, Mary Beerworth, executive director of the Vermont Right to Life Committee, thinks the new policy will increase unintended pregnancy, but she relied on speculation instead of on facts.

“(Teenagers) don’t even always remember to brush their teeth without parents reminding them. A lot of young girls I know who had abortions under age 18, just forgot to take the pill,” Beerworth said.

As a counterpoint, Lucy Leriche, vice president of Vermont public affairs for Planned Parenthood, gave Today Health a different perspective by referencing facts and studies.

“Condom availability programs increase condom use, increase condom carrying behavior, promote abstinence or delayed sexual initiation among adolescents, and reduce STD rates,” Leriche said in a statement. “Studies of school condom availability programs find a significant increase in condom use among sexually active students but no increase in sexual activity.”

“Students spend a significant amount of time at school and see adults like nurses, guidance counselors, and health teachers as reliable resources for information about sexual health, schools can feel like a supportive environment for condom access,” Leriche’s statement continued.

One twitter user came through with a very nuanced point centered on another state: kids lose their virginity in middle school, so shouldn’t we come to terms with that? “Vermont law goes into effect to give middle and high schoolers free condoms,” the comment reads. “High school makes sense, a little weird for middle but then again I know people that lost their virginity at 12 so… not sure what to think about it.”

The effort to make condoms accessible to students is controversial to some, but for those who choose to play the ‘what about the children?’ card…well, let’s turn to the advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: one of the markers for a successful condom availability program (otherwise known as CAP) is that “all programs should provide at least one confidential location for students to obtain condoms. Researchers found that many students were concerned about being embarrassed if someone saw them take a condom at school and most students wanted condoms available in more locations throughout their school.”

The CDC reports only 7.2% of high schools and 2.3% of middle schools made condoms available to students in 2014. Further, the CDC researchers reviewed scientific papers that evaluated U.S. CAPs in schools and discovered that no programs reported an increase in sexual activity, the number of sex partners, the frequency of sexual intercourse, or other sexual risky behaviors. What’s more, two school districts showed lower levels of sexual risk among students in schools with CAPs, the CDC surmises this is due to access to educational materials or messages that were handed out with the condoms.