Birth Control in Middle School

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

This is one of those issues that makes me feel old. I'm only 23, but sex was definitely not on the menu when I was in middle school. We were more worried about how our braces made us look in pictures or whether or not we got to sit next to the "cool girl" at lunch, and the height of flirtation entailed passing a note that read, "Do you like me? Check one: Yes or No." But now, apparently, sex is something middle schools have to take seriously. Not that all 11- and 12-year-olds are having sex or getting pregnant — far from it. But enough are dabbling that some middle schools across the country have decided to make prescription birth control available to their students, the most recent of which is King Middle School in Portland, Maine. Not surprisingly, the decision has garnered heated reaction from both sides of the debate: opponents say it's a band-aid that doesn't fix the deeper, root issue of why some eleven-year-olds are having sex, while proponents argue that it's important for young kids who are sexually active to have access to protection. Tell us your opinion: has the middle school environment really changed, or has sex always lurked beneath the surface (or behind the gymnasium, as it were)? And how young is too young for birth control?

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What about the side effects of birth control? Can a school really override a parents decision to keep thier child off medication? What happens when there is a complication? Is the school going to cover the bill since the parent was unaware thier child was being medicated? Theres no better prevention of sex than pictures of STD's...

Sent by Adrianna | 2:15 PM | 10-22-2007

I want to know how much sex ed is in the middle schools and would that help with the birth rate as well as the birth control?

Sent by Amy Von Thun | 2:18 PM | 10-22-2007

Is statutory rape still on the books? If we prosecute those individuals who are engaged in sexual intercourse with people who are underage, why do we not do more to investigate and proactively protect those individuals who are invested in sexual activity at this young age to the point of NEEDING birth control? Wouldn't that be a red flag for concern for the average parent to be notified? Also, what of those who will have hormones that will trigger depression and some of these "unmointored" (ie: no parental notification) situations?

Sent by Michelle Berg | 2:20 PM | 10-22-2007

Why isn't there any accompanying discussion about what constitutes statutory rape? Isn't it factual that a girl that young is not having any biological urge for intercourse yet? And if so, engaging in intercourse is being motivated by something else. Usually a need to be loved and accepted. These girls need help, and it's not birthcontrol!

Sent by Lisa Schenck | 2:21 PM | 10-22-2007

I am a mom, nurse and have also worked with Community Health. I am also concerned about pre-teens and young teens having sex. I also am concerned about this age group taking hormones when their bodies have not finished developing with their own hormones. Are we entering an age of female "steroid" problems?

Sent by Linda Byrd | 2:26 PM | 10-22-2007

Sex is a controversial topic on any level, but the fact of the matter is that kids 11-13 are sexually active, and they should have access to birth control and other contraceptivs that pervent pregnancy.
There are a variety of social issues at hand that need to become part of a larger dialog within American Society as to why kids this age are having sex. A century ago, young girls were married off at the age of 13,14,15 and becoming young mothers etc. and in many societies there are similar situations occurring and many of these issues need to become part of the larger trajectory of kids having sex, the knowledge the acquire about it, and also how their attitudes are shaped on it.

also virginity is imporantant but what are the larger views towards women and girls that are being perptuated?

Sent by anni | 2:26 PM | 10-22-2007

I wonder about the effecacy of giving the pill to someone of such a young age. The pill, in order to be effective, has to be taken at the same time every day, without fail. Is a girl that young responsible enough to not forget to take one? Also, if her regular physician does not know she's on the pill, there could be adverse interactions with other medications she is taking. If she goes on an antibiotic, for example, the pill will be less effective. I just don't think someone of that age has the capacity to understands all of the risks and implications.

Sent by Courtney | 2:28 PM | 10-22-2007

Has anyone considered the long term effect of birth control on the body when starting so young? This is a time of great change (puberty) for the female body, and what would regulating it with drugs do at such a young age? This is scary.

Sent by Laura | 2:28 PM | 10-22-2007

Wrong, wrong, wrong.
To whose children are we administering drugs without consent?
Why are we making our children pay for our inability to pay proper
attention to our children as CHILDREN.
Our irresponsiblity as adults is, yet again, making our children pay.

Sent by Judi Sielaff | 2:28 PM | 10-22-2007

Who are we kidding? Studies for the last 20 years have proven that across the western democracies, young people become sexually active around the age of 15 1/2 years old. We need to help these young people learn to be safe when they engage in this activity not to ignore that it is going on.

Sent by Doug McCoy | 2:28 PM | 10-22-2007

It seems that this is less a moral issue than it is a physiological issue. Not so many years ago, 11-13 year olds did not want to engage in sexual activity because their bodies had not yet begun to mature in that way. Now, children enter puberty earlier and earlier. The desire to engage in sexual activity is a natural side effect of this physiological change. Until this fact can be addressed by the medical community, pre-teens will continue to do what their bodies are telling them to do.

Sent by Tara Gentile | 2:30 PM | 10-22-2007

Sex is human nature - there is no stopping it. To the woman who prosletizes about abstaining and the heartbreak - remind her of the disaster of children having children. Abstinence is a joke - reality is reality. Kids are having kids at a huge rate...

Sent by Ramona | 2:31 PM | 10-22-2007

Does your guest believe that there is any correlation between access to pornography online and underage sex trends, expecially considering the lack of awareness that parents typically have with regards to both activities.

Sent by Frank | 2:31 PM | 10-22-2007

My son was in 8th grade when I discovered he was sexually active. I attempted to speak to him openly, he shut down. His Father tried to speak to him as well as counselors at school. I was concerned about his age and maturity level as well as the maturity of the girls he was intimate with. Junior high is much too young for sex!
Once the door is open its hard to close it.

Sent by Kim | 2:32 PM | 10-22-2007

What about people who are abstaining because birth control is not readilly available? I was one of them. I would have had sex at least two years earlier if I had haad access to birth control.

Sent by Randy in Arkansas | 2:34 PM | 10-22-2007

The school nurse is really speaking outside of her area of expertise. If she wishes to comment on abstinence as a religious choice and lack of adherence to that having an effect on the divorce rate, please don't present her as nurse.

Oregon RN

Sent by Jackson Wild | 2:34 PM | 10-22-2007

When I listen to your guest I find myself feeling as if she is contradicting herself. Early in the show she stated self-reported rates for girls who are sexually active have gone way down. To me this says that women of my generation who are now raising middle school girls are having the conversation with their children. We are addressing the problem of children being sexually active. Why else would that number have gone down by almost half since 1991. I say, continue to give us as parents a chance to raise our children and to guide our children. Don't let the schools steal the raising of our children from us!

Sent by Laura | 2:35 PM | 10-22-2007

We hear Laurie saying "I think" "I think" "I think" (thereby imposing HER views on parents). And we hear the schools' defenderers blaming "the community" for not discussing the "larger question" of why teens so young having sex? What I DO NOT hear is a candid questioning of why the SCHOOLS foster and tolerate an environment SO sordid that this kind of thing so easily thrives.... NO WONDER so many parents are demanding alternatives like charter and home schooling! Signed -- Fed Up in Portland Oregon

Sent by Mark Patrick | 2:36 PM | 10-22-2007

Why is it all on the girls and women? What about counseling and birth control for boys/men? Older men seeking younger girls is a REAl problem - just look at the pedophiles out there. It is the men, not the women who are the problem so as soon as a girl is old enough to conceive, she should have availability to birth control. Ask a group of 10 women and see how many were manipulated, abused, raped or attacked by men and did not willingly give up there virginity. But it's always the girls faulty. Shame.

Sent by Cathy Freeman | 2:36 PM | 10-22-2007

It is extremely curious to me that this discussion is focused on young girls when two people are involved in having sex; it takes two to tango, so to speak. What are we doing to educate young men about sex, birth control and, most importantly, boundaries and communication?

Sent by Kathleen Gutierrez | 2:36 PM | 10-22-2007

I think 11 is too young to have sex. I understand people want to protect against an 11 year old getting pregnant but what about implementing a self esteem program that would teach young boys and girls to value themselves?

A girl came to our school when she was pregnant!!! She was showing. I knew girls who had sex and they didn't do it because they were having great sex. They had sex because that's what the boys wanted. To be more exact that's what the "men" wanted. I remember my mother telling me about one of my pals "she has sex with grown men." People didn't stop & think what is going on when a thirteen year old is "having sex" with a grown man? The girl was looked on as being "bad" or "fast." I don't have children. My mother told me at age 11 "I 'ain't paying for no babies." So I knew there was no help coming from home. It didn't just pertain to sex it pertained to attention, affection-love. I didn't and do not get it at home. Maybe that's why these girls are having sex.

Sent by Mary | 2:37 PM | 10-22-2007

It is not factual that girls in middle school don't have a biological urge for intercourse. Our ancestors had children at 13 and 14.

Kids are having sex ... and not just with adults. Get a clue and stop letting your fear and self-righteousness get in the way of helping girls make good choices about their lives. If you preach abstinence, all you will do is prevent the girls (and boys) from using birth control and being responsible when they do decide to have sex - which they will! Not only will they have sex - you want them to have sex eventually. And we have a responsibility to give them all the knowledge to make the best decisions for themselves.

Most people in Gen X, Gen Y, etc are NOT virgins when they marry. Many don't marry. Cultural norms are changing and by clinging to antiquated ideals of romance (which were never true in the first place), you are putting girls (and boys lives at risk.

Books to read:
Marriage: A History, Stephanie Coontz
Harmful to Minors: The perils of protecting kids of sex by Judith Levine

Sent by Rebecca | 2:37 PM | 10-22-2007

I'd like to see that a system was focusing on how young boys and men are being educated on the consequences of their behaviours, and how they see, think of and treat the young girls. I think that it's an incomplete point of view to go on and on about the girls' "broken hearts" and counseling for them without thinking about the other participants in these relationships.
Young girls are always put upon as the main ones bearing the responsibility for sex. Why?

Sent by Lorelei | 2:38 PM | 10-22-2007

Of course abstinence is the best option for children not mature enough to handle sex. That being said, we should not be putting virginity up on a pedestal as this "sacred" and "precious" artifact. That's the same logic that encourages fundamentalist cultures to ostracize and disown daughters who have been raped, the same logic that only values a woman in marriage as property and her virginity as part of the commercial exchange. Sex is a natural act, and virginity should not be idealized or romanticized. The problem is that many of the same people opposing the availability of birth control also oppose discussing sex and STDs in graphic detail at all. Education at an early age is key. Not talking about it hurts kids much more than we can imagine.

Sent by Andrew | 2:38 PM | 10-22-2007

The caller Dianne Miller is bringing up a lot of irrelevant points. One really basic, down to the bone, thing that people need to consider is instinct. One can argue that the spreading of DNA is the meaning of life. The survival of the fittest. Young people aren't thinking about the consequences, just running off that basic, ingrained instinct. Most children aren't going to talk to their parents about getting contraceptives since having sex isn't something they want their parents to know they are doing in the first place. Even when parents talk to children, and tell them about the risks... once two young lovers are together and alone they wont be thinking about what their parents said. Its just basic instinct. Look at all the other animals on this planet.

Sent by Adam | 2:39 PM | 10-22-2007

Why aren't we discussing boys' behavior here? Why aren't we discussing how boys' emotional or biological issues drive them to seek sex and how to address their behavior? Why aren't we making assumptions that divorced men should talk about the bad decisions they made regarding early sex?

Sent by Bridgett Boulton | 2:39 PM | 10-22-2007

While I agree with Diane Miller, the former school nurse from Portland, ME, that middle-school age children should not be engaging in sex, I disagree with her view that sex outside of marriage is wrong. The way she phrased a young girls virginity as "precious and priceless" hearkens back to a time when a woman's worth was based on her chastity. Plenty of women, myself included, have healthy committed relationships and aren't married. Teaching young girls that sex outside of marriage is wrong will only fill them with a sense of self-loathing if they do choose to engage in sex before marriage. I think this self-loathing can be every bit as damaging to a person's self worth.

Sent by Mara Thomas | 2:39 PM | 10-22-2007

I'm 30 now. I remember experimenting, playing "doctor" with friends from such an early age that some people would be amazed. This was with friends my age, not statutory. While not everyone is going to be sexually active, we have a problem in the US that we just don't talk to each other, and we avoid tough conversations like sex. We think that kids don't need to know about it, but by the time most parents think about talking to their children, it's already two years or more too late. Parents need to take responsibility for their children, and talk to them about the tough conversations.

Sent by Shawn | 2:39 PM | 10-22-2007

I agree that we need to do more for girls before they engage in sex! Really! Seminars on self esteem, real talk about what sex means to girls vs boys, the value of dignity and self worth. It is a tough topic, but perhaps it can be address as self-esteem topic, and provide activities that create self esteem in girls. Sex is too attractive an option, especially since there is "compition" between girls, and the feeling that you can't keep a boyfriend unless you give out... Should young boys and girls even have relationships (boyfriend/girlfriend)? I don't think so! I don't even mean to sound extreme, but school dances also promote relationships that are not healthy. The sex drive is already there, and you want them to dance in the dark together, please! We NEED to rethink what is appropriate and provide better alternatives.
Aischa

Sent by Aischa | 2:40 PM | 10-22-2007

Ever time I hear a conversation about birth control it seems to focus on talking to our daughters about what they should or should not be doing. As a mother of 3 sons it seems apparent to me that we are overlooking 50% of those who should be involved in this dialog

Sent by Gwen | 2:41 PM | 10-22-2007

I am concerned about the lack of conversation about what the developmental effects of taking birth control pills are on girls this young, some of whom who may not have even gotten a period. Hormones play such an important part in growth and development; when we interfere with the natural course of development, what are the long term consequences for the these girls' bodies?

Sent by Jennifer Healy | 2:41 PM | 10-22-2007

Kids have sex between 2 and 5 p.m. The school day ends early, parents are not home, there is no place to go if you not on a team and kids have sex out of boredom. I personally encountered this 20 years ago when I discovered my daughter's friends used my house for sex when I was at work. They just had nothing to do and this gave them a temporary high, like drugs.

Sent by Fran Tucker | 2:42 PM | 10-22-2007

I believe that there is a deeper issue than offering children birth control. That would be the concept that children of middle school age are sexual beings, albeit recent converts. This is not a new trend, children of current middle school age have been married off to make more children at this age regularly. The issue that a child's virginity is precious and losing it early can cause emotional scarring is not because their virginity is inherently "precious," but rather because our overt societal and educational norms condition children to think of sex as evil. Thus, when one loses their virginity they have tasted the forbidden fruit and can be ostracized. A solution to this problem would be to introduce children to their sexuality at an early age, letting them know sex is amazing and fun and painful and exciting (just like love or marriage or even religion)! By providing contrasting views of sex - one through school (sex is evil) and one through mass marketing/media (sex is cool) - we run the risk of confusing children. Arguing about providing birth control to these children skirts the real issue - the sexuality of young children. If we accept their sexuality and that these urges are natural, we can go about having a more reasoned and ultimately more successful debate about how to control unwanted pregnancies.

Sent by Matthew Isakson | 2:44 PM | 10-22-2007

Parents need to take responsibility for the sex education of their children. They should counsel abstinence because that is the only sure way to prevent pregnancy and sex-related disease. Parents need to also talk honestly with them about how to think properly about the urges and pressures they will experience. If parents do this successfully they need not fear having contraceptives available for those kids whose parents are not doing this. If they are unsuccessful in teaching and training their children, surely they would prefer the school providing help than having their child actually become pregnant. Abstinence and contraception are not incompatible; they are parts of the same solution. The only part of this particular situation that bothers me is not informing the parents. I feel that counselors should attempt to get the child to inform the parents, but if that can't be, then the right to help the child anyway must be guaranteed.

Sent by Doug | 2:46 PM | 10-22-2007

I'm amazed Ms. Miller lasted 8 years as a school nurse. Her sort of religious moralizing about sexual activity is the very thing many kids are running from or rejecting when they have sex. It's right in line with the Bush administration's "keep 'em ignorant" policy, where Federal funding is denied to schools that provide accurate sex ed, rather than abstinence only programs - despite the fact that kids who've had abstinence only education have been shown to be much more likely to become pregnant. Virginity is a "precious pearl"? Give me a break - virginity is the state of not having had sex (and hey, why not discuss what we mean by "sex" - penis-in-vagina's not the be-all and end-all), a physical fact, not a holy state. Is a boy's virginity a "precious pearl", too?
What I'd like to see is more emphasis on condom use. Birth control pills don't stop STDs, and kids really aren't getting that message very clearly (see abstinence only programs, above).

Sent by Ann Burlingham | 2:46 PM | 10-22-2007

I am a young woman (22 years old), and it wasn't too long ago that I was in school and dealing with these issues. This woman Diane, was speaking about a young woman's virginity as a "precious, priceless gift", and how young women are emotionally scarred for life by their sexual activity in their youth. I believe that much of the damage done to these young women is caused by people by her that perpetuate this idea of a woman's sexuality as a gift to a man, and not something that is theirs to enjoy. We need to empower young women to own their sexuality. If young women can feel comfortable asking questions they can use that information to make smarter decisions for themselves.

Sent by Charlotte | 2:46 PM | 10-22-2007

With all respect, Ms. Miller made me furious. Broken hearted women? Smacks of women who "go insane after an abortion." I also noticed all the responsibility being put on girls. Did she ever speak of home intervention for boys? I remind Ms. Miller IT TAKES TWO. And boys get AIDS and herpies, too.

Condoms are NOT 100%, but they are better than nothing. America has to get over it's fear of sex. Girls and women should be allowed to have sex whenever they want to.

Yes, young (middle school) girls are too young, but if studies show they are having sex, THEY MUST be protected. And responsibility MUST ALSO be placed on boys and parents.

Another guest pointed out that most times the fathers are usually five, six + years older than these girls. Where is law enforcement? Where are the parents? These men belong in jail for sexual assault.

I had a LOT of peer pressure from girlfriends who lost their virginity and took delight in calling me "the virgin." When I was ready, my friend's pressure had NOTHING to do with my decision. I was 19 years old, the boy was not a good partner for ANY woman, and I am *happily* married now at 53 years old. I do NOT regret my decision, and it did not ruin my life or other relationships. IT WAS JUST SEX. Human beings, boys and girls, lose their virginity. Let's protect them.

Sent by withheld/Laramie, WY | 2:49 PM | 10-22-2007

It's being said over and over--we need to apply our resources to the deeper issue and not try to mask the problem! We are selling our kids short if we just accept that they'll have sex and then focus on the the aftermath. We also know that some kids, maybe because of peer pressure, are going to do drugs but we don't pass out clean needles to protect them. We have to invest in the mental and physical well being of our youth on a deeper level-they are the future of our nation.

Sent by mary | 2:50 PM | 10-22-2007

I am severely concerned that the talk on the show had only one opponent to basically 3 proponents for the idea of handing out oral contraceptives without parental approval.

The one opponent was basically unable to make the case aside a spiritual appeal. There are great secular ethical reasons to be against the program and to offer means of social intervention in bad parental situations.

One question is what is the long term afffect of oral contraception given to young girls of the age of 11-13 years old. It is outrageous this was not mentioned as part of the disussion. I honestly feel the show was as good as empty air time. Basically it was lets talk about talking about it.

Sent by frank | 2:52 PM | 10-22-2007

I think our society needs to talk much more about relationships- sexuality is part of being human. Your caller, Diane insist that sex before marriage is wrong. I would challenge the survey she suggested on emotional scarring from first sexual experiences to include the question "How many of you are scarred from your first marriage, or your choice of marriage partner? I think it is naive to pretend that "marriage" (did she 50% failure rate?)is some magic standard of measure of correct, or most beneficial, decision making. We need to be more frank with ourselves and our children about the challenges of relationship in general.
Protect children from pregnancy. We all agree the impacts are too damaging.

Sent by Beth | 2:52 PM | 10-22-2007

I'm curious why Diane Miller was given so much air-time to preach her obviously religious view of the entire subject. "Sex before marriage is ALWAYS wrong" as a solution to teen pregnancy is ridiculously short sighted and virtually always stems from some sort of belief that a certain holy book contains edicts about our sexuality. Conversations like this require reason and facts and sound science, not blind commitment to ideals that are hopelessly unrealistic.

Sent by Derek Knisely | 2:54 PM | 10-22-2007

What about the boys in this discussion. The pressure for girls to have sex will not change until boys become invested in abstinance. I believe more effort needs to put into this area.

Sent by Julie Kolbow | 2:55 PM | 10-22-2007

I was shocked listening to the program today. I didn't realize that such a high percentage of the sexual partners of these young girls were at least 5 years older. WHY AREN'T THESE PREDATORS IN PRISON? Even though it is stupid, I understand two kids of the same age engaging in sex. However, there is absolutely no reason on earth for us to tolerate the "rape" of our children by men who are old enough to know better. What is wrong with a talk show where such a statistic can be cited with no "gasp" from the host or guests? What is wrong with a society which doesn't even blink an eye when faced with such an atrocity? Whether or not birth control is given to our children is not the urgent issue. Protecting our children from those adults who would steal their innocence is!!!!!

Sent by Donna Walker | 2:56 PM | 10-22-2007

How can young people make rational decisions about sex if they are discouraged from thinking about it and discussing it?

Sent by inspra | 2:57 PM | 10-22-2007

Nothing will be accomplished unless we finally acknowledge in our society that we are all sexual beings from the cradle to the grave. Right now, sexuality is seen in a "dirty" light and tha norm is "Sex equals intercourse only -- everything else is taboo!" Through honest, positive education, from childhood on, we could validate the pleasure incentive and learn how to enjoy one's normal sexuality (in all its variations).withou taking the health risks we are now experiencing. We NEED extensive teacher and parent education about the biological and psychological realities of being a human being!!!!!

Sent by Sylvia S. Hacker, Ph.D | 2:57 PM | 10-22-2007

I understand Ms. Miller's premise that many women are "broken hearted." Many times girls have sex at an early age because they want someone to hold them and tell them they love them and a boy who's eager for sex will do that until he has sex with you-then in most cases he's finished with you. Living through that is painful. As a grown woman I am willing to stand up & say that I can't say I benefitted emotionally by having sex at 15 & on into my 20's. I'm not saying I'm damaged goods because of it but I wasted a lot of energy in a not so positive way. If I had more self esteem at that time there's no way I would have had as many sex partners as I did. My having sex wasn't about female empowerment it was about trying to make someone love me and stay with me which they never did!

How many 11 year old girls will look back in 9 years and think "gee, I had some amazing sex at age 11 and I learned a lot about my body."

This issue isn't about sex why doesn't anyone do some studies to find out exactly WHY 11 year olds are having sex? When I was at that age I had friends who felt they were ready to have sex. They thought they could steal on of their mother's birth control pills & she wouldn't know!!! Come on, children at that age can't be expected to remember to take a pill everyday at the same time.

How about telling children NOT to have sex until they are financially and emotionally able to raise the product of an unplanned pregnancy.

Sent by Mary | 3:11 PM | 10-22-2007

I found this program absolutely shocking. I wish you had dedicated the entire show to such an important topic.

As the mother of a precocious eleven-year-old girl (and a three year old boy) the idea of birth control pills in middle school hits very close to home.

I like to think of myself as a very progressive mom, I speak very freely to my daughter about everything, including sex, and I definitely believe that knowledge is power. I agree totally with the caller that suggested sex ed from first grade on- right on. As soon as a child is exposed to the sex and violence in our media, or when they play with their first Bratt doll- there should be a counter balance at school and even more importantly at home. But 'the pill' in middle schools with out parental consent NO WAY!

This is so wrong on so many levels. First of all what about that the pill is a drug???? What are the effects of birth control in a barely pubescent CHILD? Is the expectation that a girl's fertility will be fine with the constant bombardment of hormones for years and years- many of them developmental? What about the cultural question of pill popping? We already have an overly medicated culture. Why was this not part of the discussion?

What about STDs??? As a mother I am far more afraid of AIDS than pregnancy. 'The pill' only protects from pregnancy! Are girls being educated about this when given 'the pill?'

What about sharing the responsibility with your partner. This program excuses boys from protecting themselves and from protecting their partners. Anti girl and anti woman!

Lastly the ages of middle school, especially the youngest kids are the end of the 'rational' years. This is the opportunity to make a lasting effect. Please educate our children of all the many aspects of sexuality and sex.

Maybe it is contradictory but if this were a campaign to educate kids about condoms and even giving them out I would feel so differently.

Thank you for continuing to present such important topics.

Sent by Annie | 3:16 PM | 10-22-2007

Some of these comments are pathetic. We are not animals. We can think and chose and therefore are not bound purely to instict. No person should do whatever they feel like all the time. Sex, even with condoms and the pill, has devastating physical consequences. I'm fine with throwing out the moral arguements, but STDs, AIDS, depression, etc. are huge public health issues that shouldn't be ignored.

And just because something is pleasurable, or the pleasure incentive as stated above, doesn't make it okay to do whatever. We have no problem telling people to not smoke, to not drink too much, not eat too much (which can all be pleasurable) because they have negative health consequences, but how dare we tell some what to do or not do when it comes to their sexuality.

Sent by molly | 3:26 PM | 10-22-2007

Options are good.

I say we provide the option of birth control and restrict no scientifically supported information about it.

An informed public chooses wisely. More options only allow them to make a better choice.

Sent by Warren McClure II | 3:43 PM | 10-22-2007

1. Who checks that the children are not already on a medication that has adverse side effects when combined with the birth contorl?

Sent by Lee Reay | 4:13 PM | 10-22-2007

From my middle school experience, I know that the majority of the girls I knew were not sexually active, but some were, and I know these girls were not aware of the potential consequences of their actions.

In the same school system, the same high school taught abstinence-only education. I found this unrealistic, and I was appalled that the people I knew were sexually active were not receiving the education they desperately needed. Often their parents were not fufilling the role of this education.

I don't know that I agree with hiding these birth control decisions from parents, but I am firm in my belief that we must educate about birth control and even provide it to students of a very young age.

I have worked at a health insurance company that tries to reach out to its pregnant members, and many of them are pergnant teens, often of extremely young ages. It is an honest reality that these young women are ignorant of the uses of birth control.

Sent by Jenny T. | 4:31 PM | 10-22-2007

I find difficult to believe that there was not such a controverys over the condoms being available since 2000. Why is it that young girls do not have the same access to birth control products like young boys do. when a girl gets pregnant she is the one to carry the child, she is the one to be called names, and she is the one more likely to care for that child. Why is it that we do not offer the same kind of protection and education to the young girls that end up carrying the bigger burden of a teenage pregnancy?

Sent by Miriam | 4:54 PM | 10-22-2007

I must say I really agree with the approach the Portland school district is taking. We must be reminded that this is not done to encourage sex, but to prevent teenage pregnancy, childbirth, and abortions. I agree that counseling and education should be available to teens thinking about sex, and should be considered an essential part of a dual part long term solution. Despite all efforts to educate we know children and teens will make mistakes. I think birth control can prevent additional tragedy, making it the second part of the dual approach to children's sexual health.

Sent by Nathaniel Haynes | 5:07 PM | 10-22-2007

When I worked at an at-risk high school, several of the girls were pregnant or had been pregnant even in junior high. None of them wanted abortions and none of them gave their babies up for adoption- they told me that if a person's old enough to have sex, they're old enough to accept responsibility. And teenage boys can take responsibility too and be a dad to the baby that their actions produced. I also witnessed that. People need to take responsibility for their own decisions no matter how old or young they are.

If a person is having sex, then it's up to that person to take precautions against unwanted pregnancy and STDs. We have also all been informed that even if a person uses birth control, there is still a small chance that a pregnancy can occur. So simply put, don't have sex until you are ready to accept that "small possibility". There is more to being "ready" to have sex than just being physically and hormonally mature- a person should also be emotionally mature and financially able to accept responsibility for his or her actions. If a person gets pregnant before that, that person has a lot of growing up to do very quickly. But usually there are people who are willing to help, or in extreme situations a person could give a baby up for adoption.

Abstinence is possible, and so is having sex responsibly. I abstained from sex as a teenager and young adult, and now I am married. We both abstained from sex until marriage, and we never have to worry about STDs as long as we are faithful to each other. And pregnancy is something that we could handle if it happened, although we are also mature enough to buy our own birth control without getting traumatized or embarrassed or being a burden on other tax payers.
Even if a person does not have religious/moral beliefs about the importance of abstinence, there are other good reasons to abstain until one is truly ready for sex emotionally and financially- 100% prevention of unwanted pregnancy and STDs with no drugs, no birth control methods, no psychological harm, no emotional scars, and no worries. If a person chooses not to abstain, then that person is also choosing the possible consequences.

I've taken responsibility. Even these young "at risk" students were taking responsibility, although in a totally different way than me.

If you decide to have sex, then the consequences are yours too, so take responsibility. If people would do that then we wouldn't need to distribute any kind of birth control or protection at school; teenagers would get their own or abstain or face the consequences of their decisions.

Sent by Sarah W. | 5:59 PM | 10-22-2007

I agree with Charlotte above. I am a 23 graduate student who has interned in the Education Department at our local Planned Parenthood. As a young adult, not long out of high school, I found some of Dianne's comments, despite her tenure as a high school nurse, to be naive and extremely judgmental.

To treat virginity as a special gift that a woman is to give only to her husband. What year are we living in? Women should embrace their own bodies. Adult women need to understand that sex is not about giving a gift to a man! It's a mutual action -- otherwise it's called RAPE!

Yes, we need to educate these children. Yes, young girls should not be having sex at the age. However, we are faced with children who are having sex. Now let's educate the youth. Let's teach children how to build relationships that are not based on sex. Let's teach middle school student the responsibility and decisions that come with sexual decisions. Let's teach high school students what their options are. At the same time, let's make sure that parents are on board to hear from their students. Talking to parents is not easy if the parents are not ready to hear or understand their children.

But Dianne's contention that marriages fail based on premarital sex is RIDICULOUS! Half of our nation is divorced. Surely other factors are responsible. Dianne's assumption puts blinders over the eyes of the American public to say "Oh sex BAD!"

I am appauled to hear that she will be continue in the field. Her commentary on the show today makes me as a young adult feel belittled and judged. I have no doubt that her students sensed her attitude. It would not make for a very welcoming environment to confide in her what is actually occurring in the halls of her school.

Sent by R Lynn | 7:23 PM | 10-22-2007

I've noticed a few things in this thread.

First, the people who try to inject a moral component into this are being dismissed out of hand because they're "religious" and that's bad I guess. That's really a shame. We're where we are today because of an all to permissive view from parents. You got an 11-year-old thinking about sex? Time to give them some good strong discipline.

You want to address potentially life threatening/changing issues in school then teach the kids to swim and how to handle a firearm. How many kids drown each year versus how many get pregnant?

One other thought: we've now got schools handing out birth control pills while suspending students for taking aspirin. Do you think there's something wrong with that?

Sent by Rob | 9:37 PM | 10-22-2007

is this school providing only birth control pills for the students? what about sexually transmitted infections? which of course is really just another reason why children should not be having sex. i think this is ideally an issue for parents to deal with, not the school. the reality is that there are a heck of a lot of kids that aren't going to tell their parents about it. i don't proclaim to know the answer to this problem. my son is about to turn 9, and it's not something i am dealing with yet, but i know it is just around the corner.

Sent by elizabeth thompson | 9:41 PM | 10-22-2007

Why not make birth control available? Much better than the alternative of traumatizing our youth with pre-teen aborted pregnancies. And yes, I was "having sex" in middle school. Of course, that was a private Catholic school in the San Fernando Valley. Lord knows where this blogger went to school...

Sent by Todd Theman | 9:57 PM | 10-22-2007

Yes, that age is, in my view, way too young for sexual activity but what disturbed me the most is that both Sarah B. and Diane M. started to focus on teaching young women/girls to stay away from sex. It seems incredibly uneven and unfair to beging pointing at women/girls as the solely responsible and cause of things that are not approved of. Truly made me mad. I love the show and most likely will always be stunned by what the show always circles around . . .people. We are so very . . .

Sent by Kimberly Lowry | 11:40 PM | 10-22-2007

As a school board member and a responsible parent of three teenagers, I am pleased that the this school board responded to the needs of its student population. Lets face it, MOST middle school students do not wake up and decide to become sexually active. The few middle school students that are sexually active, often have other significant issues going on in their lives. What an opportunity for that student and parent to receive support and guidance from a physician and or nurse practioner. It is only these highly trained professions that can diagnosis and prescribe the course of treatment whether they do it in a school or in a private practice. A valuable resource for a school from my perspective as a school board member. Here is a thought -- a school counselor or school nurse can talk to a student about where to get birth control or to have an abortion or not. There is no laws preventing that. A physician or nurse practioner have been trained on the very concerns that everyone is discussing - impact of hormones, emotional maturity, type of treatment, etc are the very issues they are trained on. They will make referrals for counseling, they will engage officials if parents are not parenting in a postive way, etc. and they will not prescribe medication if it is not appropriate. Again, what a good resource and better yet this school has given parents the chocie to have their child seen at the health center or not too. As I understand it, parents must sign a consent form for their student to be seen there. This process allows all parents and their preferences to be acknowledged - those who want their child to be seen can do so and those that do not. As a parent I appreciate having this choice. I would welcome this resource at my school and more importantly for my children and our family.

Sent by debbie | 2:37 AM | 10-23-2007

I understand why the administrators believe that offering birth control is necessary, but I question whether or not the students are responsible enough to remember to take the pill. If their parents do not know, who is going to remind the pre-teens that they need to take their birth control? Most likely, these students will not even realize the importance of taking the pill regularly. Along these same lines, if students begin to feel that birth control makes them "immune" to pregnancy, pre-teens may become even more sexually active.

Pre-teen pregnancy is appalling, but I do not think that offering birth control is the best option.

Sent by Melissa | 3:26 AM | 10-23-2007

Providing condoms to pre-teens is appropriate as long as the school supplements with a strong sex-ed program but birth control pills should be out of the question. Giving children estrogen raises a whole host of health questions and also sends the wrong message that sex on birth control is safe. Even if STD's aren't present among middle schoolers, using the pill instead of condoms sets up habits that can last a dangerous lifetime

Sent by jessamine | 10:42 AM | 10-23-2007

I was also shocked that Diane Miller represented the sole dissenting view in this discussion. Though I agree with the school district's decision, I also agree there are several valid concerns regarding this policy: long-term health effects, drug interactions. I'm sure there is hard data and sociological reasoning that would have provided a good counterpoint and fostered a productive conversation.

The notion of (female) virginity as something precious that should be saved for marriage is antiquated and unrealistic. I have no problem with people who make that decision for themselves, but that should in no way be a public moral standard. The more knowledgeable we are, the more we can make informed decisions about our bodies, the healthier we will be in our sexuality - both men and women. I'm quite happy that I was properly educated by my physician mother, explored my own sexuality and did not "save myself" for marriage (at 26 and nowhere near marriage, I would still be "saving").

Ms. Miller's correlation between premarital sex and the failure of marriages is quite narrow-minded, and unfairly puts the entire onus for our divorce rate on women. There was no mention of the responsibility of males, which is indicative of a "rape culture" where girls must be taught how to avoid sexual assault, but men are never taught to control their impulses and treat women with respect.

I agree that sex education should start in the first grade - at a level that young children will understand, that is on parity with their developmental stage. Even first graders are interested in their own sexuality. It's only natural.

I get so tired of our society's strange double standard on sex -- on one hand, totally puritanical, on the other, ready to fetishize the merest "nip slip." The more open discussions we have about sexuality, in all of its forms, the better off we will be.

Sent by Menaka | 11:08 AM | 10-23-2007

Diane Miller made my skin crawl. Who lets zealots like that work in a school?!

Sent by Martin | 1:14 PM | 10-23-2007

I, too am appalled by the discussion-- mainly that most partners of very young girls--children really--are 5-6 years older (in some studies, even older) than pubescent girls. If the Portland police and other areas' police began prosecuting these statutory rape cases, the message would be sent to predatory males in our society that it is not ok to entice and seduce under-age girls. We need to protect our girls, not blame them. Girls at 11, 12, 13 are too young to make an informed decision about having sex, much less birth control decisions.

Sent by Beverly | 7:49 PM | 10-23-2007

I join the others in being appalled at the hubris displayed by the Portland school district. It's hard for me to imagine that this passed by a vote of 7 to 2. I wonder what will happen if the girls they "treat" become pregnant? Will the school district pay the hospital and doctor bill? Will they advise her to obtain an abortion? What if she develops an STD? Shouldn't the school district also pay for that long-term care? Unfortunately, some tax payers will be left holding the bag. Talk about sacrificing our children.

Sent by Frank H. | 9:29 PM | 10-24-2007

I haven't been out of middle school for that long, so I feel a certain amount of connection with these students that feel the pressure of having sex at such a young age. I will agree with the majority of comments that sex that young (11-17) is just too young, the risks way outrank any kind of social need. But I am willing to be realistic about the need to protect the health of young people that still make the choice to have sex. What I find disturbing is the fact that these students can get birth control without telling their parents. Yes, no child is going to want to confront their parents about this, no one wants to initiate another discourse on the birds and the bees. But the core of this issue is inciting the need for more communication between parents, students, and community leaders about teen sex--why are we aiding this communication breakdown by not making students responsible for getting parental consent? The need to make parents aware of their activities will provide the motivation necessary to prevent kids from feeling that contraception has now legitimized their sexual activity and will make reproductive healthcare more about health than about social pressures.

Sent by Katherine | 9:55 PM | 10-24-2007

This is insane. As a parent, I am responsible for my children until they reach adulthood. If the child is sick, I take them to the doctor. What ever the health concerns are, as a parent, I have their best interest at heart. Why in the world would we let our children decide if they need to take a prescription drug, such as birth control pills. Their bodies are not developed, and there could be serious consequences that could impact their total health. Just because some children make poor decisions and find themselves in trouble, should not be a reason for taking control away from parents. What next, do we start handing out driver's licenses when the eleven year old want to go for a joyride? My child needs a signature from me: to get their wisdom teeth pulled out, an immunization shot, and on their progress report. As a parent, I can tell my children they need to go to bed and not stay up to 3 o'clock in the morning to play video games. As a parent, I can say no if they ask for a tatoo. I can say no to any irrational action the child wishes to take. Why should birth control pills be any different?

Sent by Kimberly Berry | 9:02 AM | 10-25-2007

First of all, it is completely unconscionable to introduce Ms. Miller as a "school nurse" and then for her to go off on a rant about virginity is a precious gift and sex before marriage is always wrong. She may claim that these are not religious arguments, but they are. She had some excellent points, if only she had stuck with the EFFECTS of "sex while too young" rather than railing against "sex before marriage" as "wrong". I DO think that schools should push abstinence as much as possible (starting very strongly in middle school and then becoming less preachy as they age). I DO think 11-year-old kids having sex are more likely than not going to have health issues, emotional issues, poverty issues, etc. (Though I don't believe that to be true of 15, 16, 17 year olds.) And I DO worry about the effect of so many hormones on developing bodies - and more particularly without the parents' knowledge. We should spend more time letting kids know how envious we are of them, for their freedom, naivete and youth, and they should enjoy it while they can (but not in a lecture-y kind of way). Maybe they'd appreciate it more and stop trying to hurry to become adults. But having some "school nurse" say that "sex is just wrong wrong wrong until you're married at which time you won't even need birth control" as a HEALTH, SCIENCE answer as opposed to a RELIGIOUS answer is just wrong wrong wrong.

Sent by Christine | 3:51 PM | 10-25-2007

I think the least of my concerns as a mother of three daughters is pregnancy as a teen, I'm more worried she'll catch a life threatening sexually transmitted disease. Sex education should start IN THE HOME and it should be reinforced through the schools as well. Knowledge is power. I strated talking with my daughters at the age of five about their bodies. I nourish their self-esteem and keep the lines of communication wide open. I hope this lasts into their teens because it's simply a crying shame young men and women can't discuss these matters with their parents. ONE talk with them isn't enough...just like when they were toddlers you had to teach them over and over, it shouldn't cahnge because parents are timid or their teen gets uncomfortable, of course they get uncomfortable when you wait until the urges come and fling this ignorant little "talk" at them rahter than making it something they are used to dicussing and are comfortable doing so. So, in the end, this will reduce teen pregancy, maybe, but what about spreading disease. How many STD's were reported withing the schools there? We hear about the girls who are knocked up, but not the ones with HIV/AIDS or Hepatitis (or the males for that matter).

Sent by Tracy Wrigley | 10:49 PM | 10-30-2007

We're not talking about a tic-tac here. This is a serious drug. As a 2x breast cancer survivor, I fear for these girls in the future. This is scary. What have we come to?

Sent by Belinda | 9:54 PM | 11-1-2007

Diane Miller paints with a very broad brush stating that young girls who have sex are suffering from the problem of a broken heart and continues on to suggest that these early sexual experiences carry long term emotional consequences.
There is no credible data to suggest that teen sex causes emotional problems but rather, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, it's the other way around. Teens bring to the picture preexisting issues that make them more vulnerable to having premature irresponsible sex.
In addition, not all young people who engage in sexual activity are scarred for life. And, as Diane states as fact, those experiences do not necessarily have disastrous outcomes.
I became sexually active at 17 and it was one of the best experiences and decisions I ever made. That young relationship ended after a year but it taught me valuable and essential life lessons that brought me to where I am today which is in a very healthy 25 year long partnership with a man whom I love and respect and who returns that to me. I cherish the fact that I allowed myself to experience my own capacity for deep love when the opportunity presented itself to me back then when I was a teen. I was able to use the up's and down's of that relationship not as an experience that broke my heart but rather as one that strengthened it. My husband and I now have two college age children who know everything about sex (sex education in our household has been a lifelong course) including methods to prevent unintended pregnancy, std's and HIV/AIDS. Of course that information merely scratches the surface of what we have included in our discussions about sex and relationships however, telling them about prevention and making birth control available to them has not encouraged them to have sex. On the contrary teaching them all about responsible sexual decision making has been the reason that neither of them is sexually active. They are both waiting until they find a person with whom they can have a fulfilling exchange not just sexually but emotionally and spiritually as well.
Furthermore, Diane states that sex outside of marriage is wrong. Her limited viewpoint on the vast complexities of human sexuality and manifestations of healthy sexual expression, in my opinion, makes her less than qualified to speak as an expert on this subject. For example, many young people will never marry because they are gay or lesbian. For them, at least for now, marriage is illegal. I'm curious to know when Diane thinks might be the right time for them to have sex and what kind of counseling she thinks the families of sexually active gay and lesbian teens might need.
Diane,
FYI the pill is a medication intended for use to prevent pregnancy. It not supposed to be prescribed as a heart medication.
Goodness Sakes!

Sent by evelyn | 4:20 PM | 11-2-2007

Sex has always been there, it is just more out there now in the more modern day. When it comes to handing out birth control to middle schoolers I say no!

Sent by Crystal | 4:06 PM | 2-18-2008

i just turned 13 adn im sexually active.. and i havent even entered middle school.sex in schools is intents..we even had to walk with our hand behind our backs in the halways and when we got up out of or seats if we didnt we got explelled the pressure is intense and i think that if we are going to ahve sex we need to at least be protected

Sent by active one | 5:44 PM | 7-1-2008

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