GERVAIS, Ore. — A school district in Marion County will allow some teachers to make condoms available to students as young as sixth-graders.
Superintendent Rick Hensel of the Gervais School District says the board is concerned about teen pregnancy. Nine girls got pregnant this year, about 5 percent of the girls in grades six through 12.
"It’s an attempt to change the rate of teen pregnancy," Hensel said about the new policy, which is scheduled to start next school year.
Hensel says students will have to discuss the condoms with a trained professional, such as nurses, counselors and health teachers.
"I think it’s each parent’s responsibility to educate their children," said Alyson Ferrens, who has children in the district.
Other family members of students in the district say it could be a good thing.
"As long as they’re getting a further education on it, that’s better," said Adam Gonzalez.
In response to concerns about the availability of condoms in the middle school specifically, Hensel pointed to the proximity of the school to the high school. It's just 40 feet away. He feels the policy would likely expand to both schools eventually. He adds the sex education classes will still stress abstinence as the only method that is 100 percent safe.
"(The Board's) decision was making condoms available was going to be a positive thing for this community, albeit controversial, but a positive thing," Hensel said.
Gervais is a town of about 2,500 people north of Salem.