I want to thank School Committee member Antonette Pepe for planning and hosting an informational meeting to explain the Comprehensive Reproductive Health Policy (CRHP), and also thank Barbara Gresham for her attendance and concern. Thanks must also be given to our superintendent, mayor and commissioner of Public Health for their discussion concerning this issue and its impact.
Dr. McAdoo, chair of the Springfield Adolescent Sexual Health Advisory Council (SASHA) presented a well documented overview of the issue which will result in the availability of condoms to students attending our middle and high schools, ages 12 to 17.
Although the meeting was great, it was too little and too late for concerned parents. The meeting was hastily scheduled, ill-advertised and emplaced at a time and site difficult for parents with children to attend. At the meeting, Dr. McAdoo stated one CRHP forum was held in January, and all SPS district parents were notified and asked to attend. She stated one-hundred parents and caregivers attended this forum and from this, 54 responded to a teen sexual health survey. This survey was used as a basis for the condom availability policy. (Massachusetts Public Health data was introduced as a source for this policy as well as case studies and data from other cities.)
Fifty-four is not representative of a school district in which 26,000 students attend.
What I fail to understand is the School Committee's urgency to implement this policy without fully vetting this hot-button social issue throughout the community; to allow for greater community input, testimony and concern. Most especially, among parents of younger children who are in or entering the middle schools, and that of children under the age of consent.
I disagree with making condoms available to students as young as 12 years old in our public schools. I asked both school committee members present to call for a postponement of this binding vote scheduled for April 5. Both declined.
I now publicly ask the School Committee as a whole to table this vote to allow for greater input from our community and concerned parents. I ask the school committee to host a meeting in a larger venue and with greater advertisement and notification to all parents and citizens in the city. I ask the School Committee to wait, listen and allow for greater public input. The school committee has hosted several public meetings to discuss the hiring of a new superintendent; so I ask for the same courtesy with regard to this issue.
Matthew H. Ferri