The Latest Debates: Condoms in School

"Handing out condoms in school is the smart thing to do," says Tracey, who got pregnant the second time she had sex. "Condoms should be passed out in high school and in middle school."


Laura disagrees. "Why would you want a stranger to hand out condoms to your kids and say 'Go for it'?" she asks. "Handing out condoms in schools is not going to fix the problem." She turns to Dr. Phil and says, "Anyone who thinks it's OK to hand out condoms in school is just wrong!"


Tracey explains that it's important to start passing out condoms as early as sixth grade, because at that age kids' hormones start kicking in. "They need to learn how to put them on, what STDs are going to

bring on, pregnancy, the whole ball of wax," she says.

Dr. Phil asks for her response to the argument that if you give teens condoms they are going to have sex even if they hadn't thought about it before.

"We want to protect our kids," Tracey says. She uses the example of parents telling their kids if  they drink, they shouldn't drive.

"What the critics will tell you is you wouldn't say, ‘OK, don't drink, but in case you decide to, here's a six pack,'" Dr. Phil points out.

"That's my argument," Laura chimes in. "We should not hand out condoms in school. I believe it gives tacit permission for them to have sex. I think we need to be teaching abstinence to teenagers."

Dr. Phil has a question for Laura. "What do you say to the people who will tell you, ‘Don't be naïve. These kids are going to do what they do, and you better prepare them for it so you don't wind up with unwanted pregnancies'?"

Laura responds. "I believe in education, and be honest with them about what is out there," she says. "And, let's face it, condoms do not protect you that much. They've got about a 15 percent failure rate … I think it's giving them a

false sense of security."

Tracey adds her thoughts. "My mother did have the talk with me. But what happened? I fell in love," she explains. "We had sex. We enjoyed each other. We used no protection, because it's embarrassing for boys or girls to stop at the Walgreens on the way home."

"Do you really think that they would use them that consistently if they had them? Where would they put them? They would put them in their pockets. They're supposed to be kept in a cool, dry place. They're heated up, so they have more of a tendency to fail," Laura says.

"That's why the education comes in," Tracey points out.

"I agree with the education," Laura replies. "Schools can't even give out Tylenol without a parent's permission."

Dr. Phil asks Laura, "Are you persuaded at all by the argument that kids are going to do it anyway?"

"No, I'm not persuaded by that. I realize that some kids will probably do that, but I think we can stop it by education. I think we can at least nip it in the bud. Numbers are declining, as a matter of fact," she says. "But in the schools that have had these programs, they've shown that it does not reduce pregnancy or STD rates at all, so it's

basically ineffective."

Dr. Phil takes Laura to task. "That is absolutely not true. It is on the decline. Unwanted pregnancy is on the decline," he says. 

"I think it's because kids are less sexually active than before, because the information is out there," Laura says.

Dr. Phil disagrees. "The fact is that the research does not support what you're saying," he tells Laura. "If you look at the massive studies that are nationwide, if you look at the Planned Parenthood studies, the fact of the matter is that kids who go through a thorough sex education program of which making condoms available with some anonymity… that kids do use them when they have them. And they don't necessarily have sex sooner. They don't have sex more often. They don't have more sexual partners when they're involved in a sex education program that involves instruction and availability of condoms."

"Is that because of the instruction or is that because of the availability of condoms?" Laura asks. "I think it's because of the instruction, that maybe they're being more careful and they're waiting."

Dr. Phil addresses both women. "I could argue either of your sides effectively, because clearly there's a downside to the suggestibility of it. If kids take that as an implicit endorsement, that's a really bad message that you send to them," he tells them. "On the other hand, the reality is kids do have sex out of wedlock, way ahead of time,

before they can predict the consequences of their actions. And I'm not so sure that I wouldn't rather have two extra kids having sex before I would've wanted them to, rather than one bringing a child into the world that they are now responsible for and not prepared to take care of."

Laura argues, "If kids are irresponsible anyway, so they're going to do it anyway, they're probably not going to use condoms or use them correctly."

"The truth is, every clinical study that's been done has shown that kids that do go through a thorough sex education program have used them, not 100 percent of the time, but darn close in the ensuing year, and pregnancy in those schools went down," Dr. Phil refutes. "You have to look at the evidence. You have to look at the results. Everybody says, ‘We should teach abstinence.' No question, absolutely we should teach abstinence, but abstinence programs are not successful."


Dr. Phil continues. "If you teach that having sex is a moral failure, that alone does not reduce unwanted pregnancy. It needs to be part of the education program, but we have to do this as part of a comprehensive program. We have to teach these kids these things. Everybody says, ‘Maybe we shouldn't teach the kids we should teach the parents, because the parents don't know what to say.' Then teach the parents. Make that required," he says. "Bottom line, I think it is dead wrong to just deal condoms out with your lunch, but I do think that you need a comprehensive program with the parents, with the kids and part of that is instructions on using them and making them accessible. Research tells us you are going to reduce disease level, you are going to reduce pregnancy. Does it solve the problem? Absolutely not. Is there a downside of suggestibility? Things aren't clear cut oftentimes, so you've got to decide what the risk-reward ratio is."