School board votes in favor of making free condoms available at all Montgomery County high schools

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Free condoms are on the way to every high school in Montgomery County as part a new effort to combat the rise in sexually transmitted diseases among young people.

This measure has received a lot of support and county officials said this was long overdue. The school board unanimously voted Tuesday to expand a pilot program that has already been offering free condoms at wellness centers at four Montgomery County high schools.

School board member Jill Ortman-Fouse spearheaded the effort to expand this program with the help of Montgomery County Councilmember George Leventhal after learning Montgomery County has seen a three-year spike in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis, especially among people between the ages of 15 and 29.

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She said all health classrooms and wellness centers at Montgomery County high schools are staffed by Health and Human Services employees and they will be the ones answering questions and providing sexual health education in addition to the condoms.

Ortman-Fouse said sex education is a big part of her resolution that passed Tuesday. She said the research is clear - when you combine condoms with sexual education, sexual activity actually goes down.

"I'm very pleased and I think my colleagues and I really value the safety of our kids," said Ortman-Fouse. "It's really important to us. We read the statistics about what was happening in our county and how our rate of infection was almost twice as high as the Maryland state average for two of these sexually transmitted diseases. That's really scary. When you talk about syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia - the lifelong consequences can be infertility, pregnancy complications."

The board member added, "There's always going to be people that aren't on board with this and there are still myths about sexual health for kids. Some people in our community think that if you make condoms available, kids will become more sexually active, and the research shows that just isn't true."

Officials said this is an inexpensive way to curb the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Montgomery County gets 4,000 condoms a month from the state. Since the program is funded by Health and Human Services, it will not actually come out of the school district's budget.