BoardBuzz was intrigued by this Washington Post article that shows that D.C. school officials are planning to offer tests for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) to all high school students in the coming school year. And get this, it’s not something completely new. The D.C. program will be an expansion of a pilot program, and the article states that school systems in New York, Chicago, New Orleans and Baltimore, among others, are either currently perform screening for STDs or are preparing to initiate a pilot program.
The D.C. program was conducted last year at eight high schools and, alarmingly, revealed that 13 percent of about 3,000 students tested positive for an STD, mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one million adolescents and young adults aged 10-24 years were reported to have chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis in 2006. And nearly a quarter of females aged 15-19 years had a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection during 2003-2004.
But why exactly are school systems doing this and is there real value to such a program? First and foremost, addressing STDs plays a major role in curbing HIV infection. How so? According to the CDC, individuals who are infected with STDs are at least two to five times more likely than uninfected individuals to acquire HIV infection if they are exposed to the virus through sexual contact. So in a city like D.C., which has the highest HIV rate in the nation, combating STDs is of utmost importance.
In addition, schools house hundreds to thousands of students at a time, making it a strategic place to recruit teenagers, without the need to develop multimillion dollar campaigns to lure youth to go to clinics to get tested. Moreover, STD testing in schools provides a unique opportunity to increase awareness of STDs and HIV among youth and teach them about the consequences of unprotected and too early sex. Yes, there are some drawbacks: kids might feel they are under the microscope and some parents might oppose such a program, which may cause concern for school officials. But the Washington Post article relays that there has not been much community opposition.
In the end, BoardBuzz thinks it boils down to this: What’s the point of schools preparing children for the future if they will not have a future because they were struck by a devastating and life-threatening disease such as AIDS?
What do you think? Should schools be testing kids for STDs? Leave us a comment. And if you need helping navigating through such controversial issues, NSBA is here to help! NSBA’s School Health Programs website has several resources pertaining to the sexual health of youth and, if you would like to obtain more information on legal issues surrounding such programs, don’t forget to check out NSBA’s School Law website.