News Sexual Health

Oregon School District to Distribute Condoms to Middle and High School Students

Martha Kempner

Facing a teen pregnancy problem, one school district in Oregon has decided to make condoms available to students in middle and high school. Thus far, the administrators say they have heard little opposition to the plan.

Gervais County Schools in Oregon will start making condoms available to its middle and high school students next year—a move that comes after a year in which nine young girls between sixth and 12th grade became pregnant.

Before they leave with condoms, the students will have to talk to designated teachers at their school, who will reinforce prevention messages.

The decision seems to be drawing the most attention for allowing condom distribution to students who some people feel are too young, but the district’s superintendent, Rick Hansel, noted that the plan makes sense for logistical reasons, and also because one of the young women who got pregnant this year was a middle school student, so the need was there.

CBS News did talk to one parent who did not approve of the measure, but school officials say they haven’t heard much opposition.

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Molly McCarger, a school board member who also has four daughters in the district, said that she thinks the program is necessary.

Oregon has one of the more comprehensive sexuality education laws in the country. Schools must teach sex ed that includes information about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV in both elementary school and secondary school. In fact, the law mandates that students must get instruction on this topic at least once each year in grades six through eight, and at least twice each year in high school. There is no required curriculum that schools must follow, but there are statewide guidelines districts need to use when designing their own program. The program must be balanced, age-appropriate, medically accurate, and sensitive to both culture and gender. It must be developed in accordance with the latest scientific evidence, provide success and failure rates for contraception, and allay fears about HIV that are not grounded in science. And though the program should promote abstinence for school-age youth as the safest way to prevent STDs and unintended pregnancy, “abstinence must not be taught to the exclusion of other material and instruction on contraceptive and disease reduction measures.” An amendment to the law, which went into effect in January 2013, also requires schools to teach about dating violence.

Overall, young people in Oregon fare well in terms of sexual health. Rates of unintended pregnancy, births, and abortions are all below the national average, as are rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV among young people. Still, it seems that Gervais is facing a teen pregnancy problem—the nine girls who became pregnant this year represented 5 percent of all girls in grades six through 12. According to media reports, 7 percent of girls got pregnant last year, which would be about 13 girls if the total number of students didn’t change drastically between years.

Making condoms available may well be the way to go. In October 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a strong statement in support of making condoms available to teenagers both in school and in communities. The group based its new guidelines on research that shows access to condoms does not increase sexual activity but does increase condom use, as well as research showing how well condoms can prevent STDs.

The guidelines read in part:

Schools should be considered appropriate sites for availability of condoms because they contain large adolescent populations and may potentially provide a comprehensive array of related educational and health care resources.

Combined with comprehensive sexuality education, making condoms available to students and requiring a one-on-one conversation with teachers before a student can get condoms will hopefully help cut down on unintended teen pregnancies in Gervais in the future. That is as long as the district continues to face little opposition to this new program.

News Law and Policy

Virginia School Board Asks Supreme Court to Step In on Trans Rights

Jessica Mason Pieklo

Attorneys representing a Virginia school board want the Supreme Court to block the Obama administration's efforts at protecting transgender students.

Lawyers for a Virginia school district, according to a Tuesday filing, will ask the Supreme Court to intervene in the case of a transgender student who has sued for the right to use school bathrooms consistent with his gender identity.

The case involves Gavin Grimm, a transgender student who sued the Gloucester County School Board over its policy requiring students to use restrooms that reflect their “biological gender.” Grimm’s attorneys argue that the rule, which effectively expels transgender students from communal restrooms and requires them to use “alternative” restroom facilities, is unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment and violates Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

Grimm’s attorneys had asked a federal court for an injunction blocking the policy, but the lower court refused, ruling the school board’s policy did not violate the ban on sex discrimination in Title IX. The lower court also ruled the privacy interests of other students outweighed potential harm to Grimm in using a different bathroom. Grimm’s attorneys appealed.

In the interim, the Obama administration stepped in filing an appellate brief on Grimm’s behalf and arguing the Department of Education’s official position was that Title IX protected Grimm’s rights to use a restroom consistent with his gender identity. And in April, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in favor of Grimm, holding “the [Education] Department’s interpretation of its own regulation … as it relates to restroom access by transgender individuals, is entitled to … deference and is to be accorded controlling weight in this case.”

The full panel of judges for the Fourth Circuit refused in May to rehear the case, leaving in place the original order.

The petition to be filed with the Roberts Court asks the justices to re-examine a line of legal precedent relied on by the Fourth Circuit in ruling for Grimm. This precedent states federal agencies like the Department of Education have substantial leeway in interpreting the regulations for laws they are responsible for enforcing, like Title IX.

Earlier this term the Court turned away a similar challenge to the Department of Education’s interpretation of its regulations with regards to student loan financing.

According to attorneys for the school board, the Roberts Court must take up the Grimm case because the fight over transgender student bathroom access “raises fundamental issues of bodily privacy rights” in addition to serious questions about agency authority and constitutional separation of powers.

The petition will also ask the Roberts Court to issue a stay of the Fourth Circuit decision.

Attorneys representing Grimm will have an opportunity to respond to the filing. Given the Roberts’ Court current calendar, should the Court agree to take the case, the earliest it would hear arguments is next year.

News Politics

Trump University ‘Preyed Upon the Elderly and Uneducated,’ Claims Former Trump Staffer

Ally Boguhn

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets.

Recently unsealed court documents from a class action lawsuit against Trump University—a for-profit company founded by presumptive presidential Republican nominee Donald Trump—revealed the tactics employed by the business to aggressively push their classes.

The almost 400 pages of documents released Tuesday included Trump University’s “playbook,” detailing techniques the so-called university’s salespeople were instructed to use. The book told employees to identify seminar “buyers” by sorting through student profiles based on their liquid assets, CNN reported. Staff members were told to address buyers’ doubts about going into debt with scripted responses:

I don’t like using my credit cards and going into debt: “[D]o you like living paycheck to paycheck? … Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn’t make excuses, like what you’re doing now.”

Testimony from former Trump University Sales Manager Ronald Schnackenberg uncovered by the New York Times claims that staff were pushed to exploit those struggling financially. Schnackenberg claimed in written testimony that he was once “reprimanded” for not pushing a couple he felt was in a “precarious financial condition” to buy a $35,000 real estate class using their disability income and a loan.

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Schnackenberg said he believed “Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”

Some of the released documents were later ordered to be resealed after U.S. District Judge Gonzalo P. Curiel, who is presiding over two of the three lawsuits against Trump University, on grounds that they were “mistakenly” released to the public. Trump University faces a second class action lawsuit as well as a $40 million lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

Schneiderman on Thursday told Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos that Trump University had engaged in fraud. “We have a law [in New York] against running an illegal, unlicensed university,” Schneiderman said. “This never was a university. The fraud started with the name of the organization, and you can’t just go around saying this is the George Stephanopoulos Law Firm/Hospital/University without actually qualifying and registering, so it was really a fraud from beginning to end.”

Trump’s pending Trump University lawsuits have been under increasing scrutiny. The Republican made headlines again Friday for lobbing “racially tinged” attacks on Curiel.

“I have a judge who is a hater of Donald Trump, a hater. He’s a hater,” Trump said at a campaign rally in San Diego, going on to speculate that the judge may be “Mexican.”

Trump nevertheless vowed in a Thursday tweet to reopen Trump University once the pending lawsuits against the business have concluded.

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign wasted no time this week blasting the presumptive GOP nominee for his role in Trump University after the release of the case’s documents. Speaking about the matter during a campaign rally at Rutgers University in New Jersey, Clinton called out Trump’s for-profit school.

“This is just more evidence that Donald Trump himself is a fraud. He is trying to scam America the way he tried to scam all of those people at Trump U,” Clinton said. “Trump and his employees took advantage of vulnerable Americans, encouraging them to max out their credit cards, empty their retirement savings, destroy their financial futures—all while making promises they knew were false from the beginning.”