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

Texas Court Greenlights Discrimination Against Transgender Students

Jessica Mason Pieklo

The ruling was not a decision on the merits of the Obama administration’s policy, but rather whether it followed the correct procedure in crafting it, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote.

A federal judge in Texas on Sunday issued a preliminary injunction barring the Obama administration from enforcing guidelines designed to protect transgender students from discrimination in schools.

The ruling came in the multi-state lawsuitTexas v. United States, challenging the Obama administration’s guidance to schools that receive federal funding that transgender students must be given access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity rather than their biological sex.

Schools that defy the White House’s guidance would face potential loss of funding or federal lawsuits.

The lawsuit brought by Texas and states including Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Tennessee, targets various federal memos and statements that served as the foundation for the administration’s position that the Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972 federal ban on sex discrimination encompasses gender identity discrimination. The administration charges that transgender people should be allowed to use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

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The administration overstepped its authority in issuing the statement in violation of both the Administrative Procedure Act and the Constitution, according to the states challenging the guidance.

A nearly identical lawsuit challenging the White House’s policy was filed recently by the state of Nebraska. That lawsuit was joined by Arkansas, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wyoming.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor wrote that the administration failed to engage in the proper administrative rule making process when directing schools to not discriminate against transgender students in access to restrooms and facilities. The ruling, O’Connor wrote, was not a decision on the merits of the administration’s policy, but rather whether it followed the correct procedure in crafting it.

“This case presents the difficult issue of balancing the protection of students’ rights and that of personal privacy when using school bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and other intimate facilities, while ensuring that no student is unnecessarily marginalized while attending school,” O’Connor said in his ruling. “The resolution of this difficult policy issue is not, however, the subject of this order.”

Sunday’s ruling comes shortly after the Supreme Court put on hold a federal appeals court ruling ordering a Virginia county school board to allow a transgender student access to the restroom that aligned with his gender identity.

News Law and Policy

No Need to Block Bathroom Access for Transgender Student, Attorneys Tell Supreme Court

Jessica Mason Pieklo

A transgender student in Virginia sued the local school board, arguing that its policy of mandating that students use bathrooms consistent with their “biological sex” rather than their gender identity was unconstitutional.

Attorneys representing transgender student Gavin Grimm told the U.S. Supreme Court this week that there was no reason to block a lower court order guaranteeing Grimm access to school restrooms that align with his gender identity while Grimm’s lawsuit against the Gloucester County School Board proceeds.

Grimm in 2015 sued the school board, arguing that its policy of mandating that students use bathrooms consistent with their “biological sex” rather than their gender identity—thus separating transgender students from their peers—was unconstitutional. Attorneys representing Grimm argued that the policy violates the 14th Amendment and Title IX of the U.S. Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law prohibiting sex-based discrimination at schools that receive federal funding.

A lower district court ruled the school board’s policy did not violate Grimm’s rights. But the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, reversing that decision and sending the case back to the lower court, which then blocked the school district from enforcing its policy while Grimm’s case proceeds.

In response, the school board notified the Fourth Circuit of its intent to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court and requested the appellate court stay its order granting Grimm access to bathrooms aligned with his gender identity—a decision the Fourth Circuit granted in June.

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The school board then asked the Roberts Court to issue an emergency stay of the lower court decision blocking its bathroom policy while the Court considers taking Grimm’s case.

Grimm’s attorneys argue there is no basis for the Roberts Court to grant the emergency stay requested by the school board. The board has “utterly failed to demonstrate that it will suffer irreparable harm” if Grimm is allowed to use the boys’ restroom at Gloucester High School while the Roberts Court considers stepping into the case at all, according to Grimm’s attorneys.

Attorneys for the school board filed their request with Chief Justice John Roberts, who handles petitions from the Fourth Circuit. Roberts can rule on the school board’s request to block the lower court decision, or he can refer the request to the entire Court to consider.

It is not known when Roberts or the Court will make that choice.

The Gloucester County School Board has argued that the Obama administration overstepped its authority in protecting transgender student rights. Attorneys for the school board said that overreach began in 2012, when an administration agency issued an opinion that said refusing transgender students access to the bathrooms consistent with their gender identity violated Title IX.

The administration expanded that opinion in October 2015 and filed a friend of the court brief on Grimm’s behalf with the Fourth Circuit, arguing it was the administration’s position that the school board’s policy violated federal law.

The administration again expanded that opinion in May this year into a directive stating that should publicly funded schools deny transgender students access to facilities that conform to students’ gender identity, they would be in violation of federal law, subject to lawsuits, and risking their federal funding.

The Fourth Circuit relied heavily on these actions in initially siding with Grimm earlier this year.


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