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Published in Print: March 6, 1991, as New York City Board Approves Plan To Distribute Condoms in High

New York City Board Approves Plan To Distribute Condoms in High Schools

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The city thus becomes the first district in the nation to distribute condoms to students on an unrestricted basis, without parental consent, observers said.

"This is kind of a ground-breaker," said Robin K. Lewis, a spokesman for the Center for Population Options, a group that monitors adolescent-reproductive issues. "By having such a far-reaching plan like this, we predict that more schools will grab the ball and run with it."

Under the plan, which was approved by a 4-to-3 vote, students in each of the city's 122 high schools will be able to confidentially request condoms from male and female staff volunteers according to a set schedule. Students will receive no counseling or instruction at the time they request a condom.

They will, however, receive instruction on how to use a condom as part of an as-yet-unfinished aids-prevention curriculum that will be reviewed by the board this year.

The condom-distribution program will start in 30 to 35 schools next fall and is expected to expand to all of the city's high schools within 18 months. School officials estimate each school will need about 500 condoms a month.

This latest vote is unlikely to end the debate the program has sparked since it was proposed by Schools Chancellor Joseph A. Fernandez late last year. (See Education Week, Dec. 12, 1990.)

Although only one member of the board opposes the distribution of condoms under any circumstances, other members have said they have strong reservations about a totally unrestricted program.

Westina L. Matthews, a board member who cast the fourth and decisive vote in favor of the program, said last week that she would propose an amendment to the plan that would allow parents to exclude their children from the program.

"I still believe very strongly that parents should have a say," she said.

Although Mr. Fernandez has said publicly that he would not support any changes to his program, Ms. Matthews said he has told her privately that he would back her amendment.

Asked about the possibility that the program could be amended, Frank Sobrino, a spokesman for Mr. Fernandez, would only say, "The plan was approved as is."

"I am thrilled by the board's decision tonight," Mr. Fernandez said immediately after the vote. "I know that parents, educators, health experts, and other supporters of my recommendations for expanded HIV/AIDS education, including condom availability, share my relief and elation at the decision by the board to forge ahead with this bold plan to protect our children from this deadly disease."

Vol. 10, Issue 24, Page 8

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