The Current

Condoms now available in WMHS Wellness Center, coming soon to all MCPS schools

Condoms are currently being distributed in the Watkins Mill Wellness center.

Condoms are currently being distributed in the Watkins Mill Wellness center.

Jade Pinkowitz

Jade Pinkowitz

Condoms are currently being distributed in the Watkins Mill Wellness center.

Jessica Cruz and Bianca Johnson

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Free condoms are now available at Watkins Mill, Gaithersburg, Northwood and Wheaton high schools. Remaining Montgomery County high schools will follow later this year to attempt to reduce countywide rates of sexually transmitted infections.

According to Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse, the number of infections rose sharply from 2016-2017 with 900 cases of 15-to-19-year-olds in Montgomery County diagnosed with chlamydia.

“It’s important we educate people on being safe,” principal Carol Goddard said. “I’m on the side of always educating, and better decision making processes.”

Adolescents and young women are particularly vulnerable to STIs, which can have lifelong consequences such as infertility, pregnancy complications, increased HIV risk, cervical cancer and more. Some STIs are asymptomatic, meaning carriers don’t know that they have an STI.

“We need to empower girls in particular to make safer choices, and provide them with the resources to do so,” Ortman-Fouse said. The distribution of condoms will allow students to not only be protected, but educated.

It is important to note that all heath rooms and Wellness Centers are staffed by Montgomery County Health and Human Services employees–not MCPS employees.

You do not have to be a member of the Wellness Center to receive condoms. “Each time a student requests condoms, an appointment is made with the nurse and education is done or reviewed if it is a request for additional condoms,” school community heath nurse Nancy Caruso said. Parents are not notified when packets of five latex-free condoms are issued.

In the Wellness Center, all student privacy is protected under HIPAA laws, making it illegal for the nurses and health technicians to share personal information without permission. However, this does not apply if students are engaging in acts that are dangerous to themselves or others.

MCPS is not the first county in Maryland to take this precaution. Dorchester County, Prince George’s County and Baltimore City also participate. This program has also been implemented in high schools in Washington DC,  New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Colorado and California.

“There is no evidence that condom availability programs in schools increase the number of youths whom become sexually active,” Ortman-Fouse said. “Actually research shows, when coupled with education, it decreased sexual activity.”

If you suspect you have a STI, there is confidential STI testing available to all students free of charge. Appointments can be made in the clinic or health room.

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About the Writer
Jessica Cruz, Editor-in-Chief

Jessica Cruz is a senior at Watkins Mill High school and is one of the Editors in Chief of the Current. Jessica has been playing softball and running track since freshman year. She is also a part of the National Honor Society and Orange Nation. She wants to go to college to become a nurse practitioner or maybe a journalist.

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