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Governor objects to Mass. condom plan

Gov. Deval Patrick used his bully pulpit to call the superintendent of a Cape Cod school district and urge her to revise a policy allowing elementary school students to receive free condoms.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gov. Deval Patrick used his bully pulpit Thursday to call the superintendent of a Cape Cod school district and urge her to revise a new policy allowing even elementary school students to receive free condoms without the knowledge of their parents.

The new policy makes condoms available to all Provincetown public school students and takes effect in the fall. Under the policy, any student requesting a condom from a school nurse must first receive counseling, which includes information on abstinence.

Patrick, a Democrat seeking re-election this year against a field including two conservative opponents, told The Associated Press on Thursday he objected not only to the age of the students covered by the policy, but also to a provision prohibiting their parents from being told about any request for prophylactics — and from having their objections overrule a distribution.

He said Superintendent Beth Singer, who authored the policy approved by the Cape Cod community's school board on June 10, is "going to try to walk this back a bit."

Singer did not immediately return a call and e-mail for comment.

"Obviously, this is a local issue, but I expressed my concern about the counseling and access being age-appropriate, and, for young kids, that parents ought to be involved," Patrick said in a call to The Associated Press.

Asked to outline his own views on the subject, the governor said: "I don't want first-graders having access to condoms, but I don't want first-graders to be sexually active. And, frankly, I don't think the superintendent does, either. And I think parents should be involved, and I say that as a parent."

The policy has become fodder for Boston talk radio and was the subject of a front-page story in Thursday's edition of The Boston Globe.

In it, Singer said, "The intent is to protect kids." She added: "We know that sexual experimentation is not limited to an age, so how does one put an age on it?"

Patrick said Singer explained that despite the wording in the new policy, it would be applied more practically. She told the Globe that if an elementary school student requests a condom, the nurse would ask the student a series of questions and almost certainly deny them.

School Committee Chairman Peter Grosso also recounted disagreeing with a fellow board member who wanted the policy limited to the high school.

"I was the one who said, 'Well, you never know,'" said Grosso, whose two children graduated from Provincetown High School. "It's very possible that a fifth- or sixth-grader would be getting involved in sexual activity."

Kris Mineau, president of the conservative Massachusetts Family Institute, called the policy absurd.

Town Manager Sharon Lynn said she would prefer a system requiring parental consent until children reach a certain age.

"I think the parents should be responsible for (their children), and know what their children are doing," Lynn told the Globe. She did not immediately return a call from the AP seeking comment.

Patrick is seeking a second term this fall against a field that includes Republican Charles Baker and independent Timothy Cahill, who is similarly appealing to fiscally conservative voters.