By Daniel Rubin-Marx, SIECUS Program Research Intern
Disapproval greeted the condom availability program for prom night at New York City's Bedford-Stuyvesant Preparatory High School in Brooklyn. Principal Darryl Rascoe, who previously stated that he was unaware of any opposition, reversed course and restricted condom availability to a special assembly before prom, instead of on the night of the big event.
Opposition came from unusual bedfellows: the conservative National Abstinence Education Association and the city's own Department of Education. Margie Feinberg, spokesperson for the NYC DOE, explained the department's position: "We said it was fine as long as the condoms are in a separate room, and [Rascoe] has written parental consent."1
The National Abstinence Education Association, known for opposing comprehensive sexuality education in schools, was less keen on compromise. Executive Director Valerie Huber shared her group's viewpoint via email, stating, "We are concerned that the distribution of condoms on school campuses further normalizes teen sex."2 Huber made sure to use the phrase "condom distribution" rather than "condom availability" to create a misperception that the school aggressively places condoms in students' hands (as opposed to the reality, in which the policy allows the school to make condoms available to students who request them).
Despite the opposition, many students have voiced support of the school's effort to address widely-held sexual expectations linked to prom night. "It's a great idea," believes senior Shaquana Brown. "You know, there are after parties and stuff."3 Ben Isaacs, Vice President of NV Healthcare (the organization supplying the school with NuVo condoms), further elaborated: "NuVo believes condoms should be available for anyone that wishes to protect themselves against STDs and unwanted pregnancies."4
Condom availability ultimately occurred at a special sex education assembly on June 5, two days before prom night. Despite the controversy, Isaacs feels that comprehensive sexuality education and condom availability complement abstinence promotion. "We don't have shows like 'Sixteen and Pregnant' because abstinence is working," he said. "We're trying to get the conversation started again about safe sex."5
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2Brian Alexander, "School Backs Off Condom Giveaway at the Prom," MSNBC, 30 May 2012, accessed 11 June 2012, <http://vitals.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/05/24/11862506-school-backs-off-condom-giveaway-at-the-prom?lite>.
4 Mary Frost, "Brooklyn H.S. Condom Giveaway Back On—Just Not at the Prom," Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 31 May 2012, accessed 13 June 2012, <http://www.brooklyneagle.com/articles/brooklyn-hs-condom-giveaway-back-%E2%80%94-just-not-prom>.
5 Sonja Sharp, "Bed-Stuy Prom Condom Controversy 'Overblown,' Students and Parents Say," DNAInfo, 6 June 2012, accessed 11 June 2012, <http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20120606/bedford-stuyvesant/bed-stuy-prom-condom-controversy-overblown-students-parents-say>.