Should High Schools Offer Free STD and Pregnancy Tests For Students?

At Port Chester High School in New York, officials have signed off on a new service that has lots of folks up in arms. They’ll now be offering free STD and pregnancy testing to any student who asks … without parental consent or notification. While many people are squirming in their seats thinking about the moral and religious implications of this decision, I gotta say woo hoo! Here’s why.I’ve already told you guys that I used to be a teacher at an all-girls Catholic school in California. And I can almost imagine the shock and awe on the faces of the students, faculty, and parents if the school instituted a policy like this. At my school, Catholic values ruled the roost. Students attended mass on a weekly basis, were taught sex ed under the umbrella of religion classes, and were expelled from the school if they got pregnant out of wedlock. One time, a faculty member accidentally booked a Planned Parenthood affiliated organization to speak at an assembly and the administration went apes**t. I could have lost my job if I breathed the words “contraception,” “pre-marital sex,” or “pro-choice.”

The problem? These tactics weren’t really working as intended. Many of the girls were still having sex, getting pregnant, and contracting STDs. How did I know? They were confiding in me because they had nowhere else to turn. One thing I knew for sure; their naïveté and ignorance about sexuality was certainly not helping the matter. It was difficult because I felt an obligation as a teacher and mentor to prepare them for life, not shield them from it. But in this arena, I was rendered ineffectual. I couldn’t offer consolation or advice and had to send them off to the school counselor. Between their parents’ staunch religious beliefs and the strong hand of the Archdiocese, some of these girls were trapped.

I see a service like the one at Port Chester High as a chance for teens to take ownership over their decisions and their lives and in turn have the opportunity to make better, more mature decisions. I know many won’t agree. Even in Port Chester, parents are split over the decision. Some are happy that kids will have a nurse or counselor to turn to if they are too embarrassed to ask mom or dad. Others think parental opinion in the matter should be counted. Even the school board president was against the decision—she was concerned that the service would turn the school into a quasi-maternity clinic—but she was outvoted. In an ideal world, teens would always be able to talk to their parents about issues, make good, informed decisions about sex, and not get pregnant or contract STDs. But sadly, that’s not always the reality. I mean, have you seen “16 & Pregnant“? The school thinks that this service is just a necessary next step to care for students, and I agree. [CBS]

What do you think? Has Port Chester High School gone too far? Or are they pioneers?