School board OKs teachers giving condoms to 6th graders

GERVAIS, Ore. (KGW/AP) -- A school district in Marion County has decided to allow some teachers to make condoms available to students as young as sixth-graders.

Gervais is a town of about 2,500 people north of Salem, near Woodburn. Superintendent Rick Hensel said he and the board are concerned about teen pregnancy because nine students got pregnant this year, including one middle-school girl.

That added up to about 5 percent of the girls in grades six through 12 in the small school district.

Hensel said he realized this decision may not sit well with everybody.

"I really haven't had time to process it, but I don't know how I feel," said parent Alyson Farrens. "Somebody talking to my children and giving them a condom, at that age, I don't know."

But not every parent was against the idea.

"I think it's a good thing," said parent Debbie Roberts. "I think it's better to be protected than get pregnant, so I think it's a really good thing."

A year ago, a report from nursing interns at Oregon Health & Science University showed 7 percent of Gervais high school girls had gotten pregnant. More than 40 percent of the students they surveyed admitted they "never" or only "sometimes" used a condom during intercourse. The study also found a lack of access to condoms in the town.

Board members at the Gervais school district recently approved a plan for condom distribution, as long as trained professionals hand them out. Distribution will begin next year and Hensel said the responsibility will most likely fall on health teachers or counselors.

Statewide, Oregon's teen pregnancy rate has hit an historic low.


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