Topeka school stops providing free condoms after effort goes public

? Topeka High School has stopped providing free condoms to its students after school district officials learned of the month-old program.

The district has a policy against providing contraceptives because it views access to them as an issue between parents and their children, interim Superintendent Terry Sandlin said Wednesday. He said any proposal to make condoms available should be discussed by the school board, after it consults with parents and community leaders.

Sandlin said Topeka High School’s principal was unaware that students could get condoms until a Topeka Capital-Journal reporter asked about it. The newspaper published a story in its Wednesday editions, but Sandlin said the school stopped providing condoms after Tuesday’s school day ended.

“This is a decision that requires input from everyone in our community,” Sandlin said during a news conference. “It’s not something that should be made in isolation by myself or any one specific person.”

Sarah Carson, a 16-year-old Topeka High junior, proposed that the school provide the condoms as a way to promote sexual health and awareness about AIDS. But the president of the school’s booster club was upset.

The condoms were available in a wicker basket at the school nurse’s station, along with information about how to use them and free AIDS testing. The school received about 100 each in September and October from the Topeka AIDS Project.

Each month, the condoms disappeared in about a week.

Carson filled the basket. She told the newspaper that she had approached a counselor about providing them, saying another student had suggested it.

Sandlin said the school’s principal received only “cursory” information and thought the counselor would propose an AIDS-awareness project.

Topeka High students are taught about abstinence, Carson said, but that isn’t enough because many teens are sexually active.

“They might be reluctant to go into a store and buy condoms or they might not be able to afford them,” she said.

Michelle Durkes, booster club president, said she was unhappy to hear about the condoms.

“Schools are not the place to choose to hand out condoms. Kids can go to the health department for that. It’s not the school’s job. It makes it look like you are approving having sex. We are supposed to be teaching, I thought, ‘Just say no.’ So it is very shocking that the school would be supplying them,” Durkes said.