On December 17, 2009, the Board of School Directors of the Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS) voted unanimously to approve the “communicable disease prevention program,” which will make male condoms available to students free of charge. The program will only operate in high schools where a registered nurse is present.1
School administrators proposed the program in early December after 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results showed that 25% of MPS high school students have had four or more sexual partners, 42% had had sexual intercourse with one or more partners within the three months prior to the survey, and 39% did not use a condom during their last sexual encounter.2 According to a fact sheet distributed by the school district, Milwaukee is also one of the ten cities in the country with the highest teen birth rates.3
“Everyone is not going to choose abstinence, so give them the next best solution,” said an MPS sophomore who welcomed the program and attended a December 9 committee meeting on the proposal.4 In contrast, opponents of the program cite the statistics garnered by the Youth Risk Behavior Survey as proof that comprehensive sexuality education programs don’t work. On its blog “The Key Piece,” the Wisconsin Abstinence Coalition wrote, “Wake up, Wisconsin! You had an education policy and health plan that have been total failures.”5
MPS does have a mandatory human growth and development curriculum in place for students in grades 9–12 that is abstinence-based, but also encourages the use of contraceptives for students who choose to be sexually active.6 The addition of the condom availability program means that students can now visit the school nurse, where they can receive up to two condoms at a time, as well as health information and referrals, if necessary. The school district is not authorized to use taxpayer money to fund the program, but will instead solicit donations from outside sources. The program may begin as early as fall 2010.7
2 Comparison between Milwaukee Students and U.S. Students (2007), Youth Risk Behavior Survey, accessed 20 January 2010, <www.cdc.gov/HealthyYouth/yrbs/pdf/states/yrbs07_milwaukee_us_comparison.pdf>.
3 Frequently Asked Questions: Proposed Communicable Disease Prevention Program, 3 December 2003, accessed 20 January 2010, <http://mpsportal.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_2_59080_0_0_18/091203%20Cummunicable_disease_program.pdf>.
5 “MPS and Condoms,” Wisconsin Abstinence Coalition, 9 December 2009, accessed 2 February 2010, <http://thekeypiece.blogspot.com/2009/12/mps-and-condoms.html>
6 Milwaukee Public Schools Wellness and Prevention Office, Human Growth and Development Curriculum 2009–2010, accessed 20 January 2010, <http://mpsportal.milwaukee.k12.wi.us/portal/server.pt/gateway/PTARGS_0_2_56636_0_0_18/Human%20Growth%20and%20Development%20High%20School%20Final%202009-10.pdf>.
7 Tom Kertscher, “MPS Approves Condom Giveaways.”