SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) - Beginning in September, free condoms will be made available to some students in Springfield.
It is a controversial new policy that was approved Thursday night by a 4-3 vote of the school committee: students 12 and older will be able to walk into the nurse's office and ask for a condom, free of charge.
The city is calling it their "Comprehensive Reproduction Policy." It is similar to a policy already in place in Holyoke.
Statistics show that Springfield has the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the state, and that 27% of 12 year olds and more than half of all high school freshmen are already having sex.
Teen pregnancy advocate Christy Torres said that this has also caused problems when it comes to sexually transmitted diseases.
"In and out of classrooms, I actually met an 11 year old that had disclosed to me that he had contracted HIV. 11 years old. Through unprotected sex," Torres said.
Not everyone is embracing the policy, however. Some parents, like Matthew Ferri, question whether this will really prevent a rise in teen pregnancy.
"I don't buy that. I don't buy that argument. I don't buy it," Ferri said."I cannot disagree more with this permissive policy of condom availability to children under the age of consent sexually, 12 to 15 years old."
Dr. Sarah Perez McAdoo, the Director of Youth Empowerment and Adolescent Health , said that having parents talk with children about sex can influence their behavior.
"If parents are really having the conversation with their children and develop that conversation over time, sharing with them their values and attitude and beliefs about sexual activity at a young age," she said.
Of the 12,000 middle and high school students here in the city, 81 are currently pregnant.