Public School Moves Free Condom Jar to Back Room – Available to Kids 13 and Up

July 31, 2012 - 4:44 PM

condoms

Jar of made-in-India condoms now located in an examination room at the Teen Wellness Center at the T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – Officials at the Teen Wellness Center inside T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va., have moved a large glass jar of free condoms from their front desk to a back examination room where their distribution is restricted to kids ages 13 to 19.

The free condoms apparently had been available to “teens” as young as 12, as CNSNews.com first reported on July 13, but the director of the Alexandria Department of Health, Dr. Stephen Haering, told this news outlet that he had misspoken about the age 12 limit and that the condoms are available only to Alexandria City teens starting at age 13.

The Teen Wellness Center, located inside the T.C. Williams High School at 3330 King Street in Alexandria, is a collaborative effort of the Alexandria City Public Schools, Alexandria Health Department, Alexandria Community Services Board, and “parents and community representatives,” states the Wellness Center’s page at the City of Alexandria Web site.

The center was opened inside the high school in 2010. “The Teen Wellness Center provides a variety of health services to youth between the ages of 12-19 years,” states the Web site. “These services include treatment of minor illnesses, immunizations, and physical examinations required for schools, participation in sports, employment, and the Special Olympics.  Written parental consent is required before any of the aforementioned services can be provided.”

“In addition, the Teen Wellness Center provides health education, behavior change counseling,  pregnancy testing, diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive health services (to include the provision of birth control methods), and mental health and substance abuse counseling,” reads the site.   “State law permits these services to be offered without parental consent.”

condom, teen

Open jar of condoms available to teens, as previously located at the front counter/desk of the Teen Wellness Center.  (Photo: Penny Starr/CNSNews.com)

In a July 13 story, CNSNews.com reported that the center offered, from a large glass jar in the center’s lobby, free made-in-India condoms for any patient who wanted them.  In that report, Dr. Haering, whose state agency oversees operations at the clinic, was asked by CNSNews.com: “So, back to the question of the jar, those [condoms] are for anybody who is a patient, who could be anyone from 12 to 19 who comes into the clinic, that is correct, though, correct?”

Haering said: “Anybody who is a patient, yes.”

Haering also said, “The condom distribution is intended only for those who are patients of the clinic” and “that anybody that’s coming who’s sexually active, we advise them, we highly recommend that they include their parents.” (That information was published on July 13 and garnered widespread attention.)

But in an interview with CNSNews.com at the clinic on July 16, after the initial story was published, Haering said the jar of condoms was moved from the reception area to an examination room to end “confusion” and that only patients between 13 and 19 years of age could have access to the jar.

“I decided to have it moved to the clinic area to remove any confusion as to who has access to condoms in the clinic,” Haering said, when asked why the jar was moved. “Because I think there was confusion before.”

“There never was confusion on the part of the staff or, I believe, on the part of the patients who came,” Haering said. “But certainly if a reporter – if you come in and have confusion and then that tells me there could be other people who are confused.”

When pressed that he had said on the record that the jar of condoms was accessible to all patients 12 to 19, Haering responded that he “misspoke” and that they are not available to 12 year olds because of the law in Virginia.

“We would provide them – first we do a full assessment for every client who is in,” Haering said. “Because one of the things that we know is that Virginia law does not allow 12-year-olds and below to consent to sexual activity.”

“That is automatically rape,” Haering said.

condom

Examination room at the Teen Wellness Center, inside the T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, Va. Jar of condoms is on table. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Haering could not say how many, if any, 12-year-olds were referred to local or state authorities for being sexually active.

However, he confirmed that patients as young as 13 who request family planning services from the clinic can receive them without parental notification or consent.

CNSNews.com asked, “So, let’s cut to the chase. So birth control is provided to what ages without parental consent? What age?”

Haering said,  “From 13 and up.”

CNSNews.com: “Thirteen and above can come here and you said by state law they don’t have to reveal it to their parents?”

Haering: “Correct.”

CNSNewscom: “That they can decide on their own for several things, including STD evaluation, treatment, certain mental health evaluation and treatment and family planning, including birth control. So 13 to 19 would have access to condoms and other forms of birth control.”

Haering: “Right.”

CNSNews.com: “Upon request, and they wouldn’t have to have parental consent. Is that correct?”

Haering: “That is correct, yes.”

A transcript of CNSNews.com’s exchange with Dr. Stephen Haering is published below:

CNSNews.com: “I noticed that the jar of condoms is not sitting there anymore. How did that decision come about? Who made that decision and why?”

Dr. Haering: “I decided to have it moved to the clinic area to remove any confusion as to who has access to condoms in the clinic. Because I think there was confusion before. There never was confusion on the part of the staff or, I believe, on the part of the patients who came. But certainly if a reporter – if you come in and have confusion and then that tells me there could be other people who are confused.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay, but how does that remove doubt though, because you told me in previous interviews, No. 1, that those condoms in that jar were available to anyone who is a patient here at the clinic 12 to 19. You said that on the record I have that on previous interviews that you said – I asked specifically who has access to those condoms in that jar and you said anyone who is a patient at this clinic from 12 to 19, so I’m not sure what you mean by confusion. You said specifically who had access to them.”

Haering: “Well, the clinic is available for a variety of services for youth age 12 to 19. But the condoms are available for youth who are age 13 and above.”

CNSNews.com: “You didn’t say that to me before, though.”

Haering: “Okay, then I misspoke.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay, because -- so it is for those who are 13 and up. Okay, because it’s interesting that you said that because Bill O’Reilly’s program I think contacted you. Did they contact you?”

Haering: “Yes.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay, when was that that they contacted you?”

Haering: “It was Thursday – last Thursday.”

CNSNews.com: “Because I know in our conversation you specially said 12 to 19 and then when I saw that on the transcript from the O’Reilly factor I was confused because you had said 12 to 19 but you’re saying even though the website indicates that anyone 12 to 19 – on top of what you said – the website specifically says any person 12 to 19 gets these following services. There were certain ones that were bolded that have to have parental consent.”

Haering: “Right.”

CNSNews.com: “And birth control is not one of them and I asked you that specifically and you said Virginia state law does not require parental consent for certain things such as STD testing, evaluation and treatment, certain mental health counseling, evaluation and treatment and birth control.”

Haering: “Family planning.”

CNSNews.com: “Family planning.”

Haering: “Exactly.”

CNSNews.com: “Including birth control.”

Haering: “Yeah, exactly. Because our family planning is an array of services, including advisement that abstinence is the best birth control by far. Hands down.”

CNSNews.com: “I reported that -- that you said that.”

Haering: “Right, I saw that.”

CNSNews.com: “But now you are saying that the policy is, if that jar were sitting out, it could be anyone 13 to 19 would have access to it.”

condom

Front counter at Teen Wellness Center where the jar of free condoms used to be located. (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

Haering: “Right. This is part of the array of family planning services for 13 to 19.”

CNSNews.com: “I want to ask then, specifically, why was it removed from the desk?”

Haering: “It was removed from the desk. It wasn’t removed from the clinic.”

CNSNews.com: “Where is it?”

Haering: “It was moved into one of our clinic rooms.”

CNSNews.com: “Into a treatment room?”

Haering: “Yes.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay.”

Haering: “Yes.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay. And who has access to that now? Will that still be someone who was in that room, but you’re saying only 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and 19 year olds would be able to have one?”

Haering: “Right, because when a 12-year-old is here they are here for other services. They are here for childhood services, which can mean a school physical, sport physical or a minor injury or illness or they’re here for an immunization and they’re with their parents.”

CNSNews.com: “Oh, okay, because you also said during our interview that if someone – if anyone 12 to 19 comes to the clinic and says they are sexually active that you would provide them the options of birth control.

Haering: “We would provide them – first we do a full assessment for every client who is in. Because one of the things that we know is that Virginia law does not allow 12-year-olds and below to consent to sexual activity. That is automatically rape.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay.”

Haering: “So what we would do is we would still do the appropriate assessment. We probably would not do – and I would have to ask because this happens so rarely – we would not do a pelvic examination because that is a police matter. And the city of Alexandria has a system so that the minor only goes through the questioning and the examination once among social services, among the police investigators and among the medical providers.”

CNSNews.com: “Okay.”

Haering: “So a 12-year-old who is presenting with sexual activity either because they have an STI or because they’re seeking family planning services would not receive that aspect of family planning services. They would receive the assessment.

CNSNews.com: “Okay, so then you must have misspoken too –”

Haering: “I must have misspoken.”

CNSNews.com: “When you said 12 to 19 for the array of services. So let’s cut to the chase. So birth control is provided to what ages without parental consent? What age?”

Haering: “From 13 and up.”

CNSNews.com: “Thirteen and above can come here and you said by state law they don’t have to reveal it to their parents.”

Haering: “Correct.”

CNSNews.com: “That they can decide on their own for several things, including STD evaluation, treatment, certain mental health evaluation and treatment and family planning, including birth control. So 13 to 19 would have access to condoms and other forms of birth control.

Haering: “Right.”

CNSNews.com: “Upon request, and they wouldn’t have to have parental consent. Is that correct?”

Haering: “That is correct, yes.”