NORTH BENNINGTON — The North Bennington Prudential Committee last week displayed some misgivings about the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union's new condom distribution policy.
The policy came before the North Bennington board for approval during a meeting on Wednesday.
"This one is a tough one," said North Bennington policy committee representative John Bullock, "I've struggled with this one, but what I'm going to do is vote against the policy, partly because I'm not convinced it's going to be implemented consistently or properly. Too much is left up to the discretion of the administrators."
The policy was drafted several months ago, after Mount Anthony Union High School began implementing a plan to make condoms available to students. The policy as drafted reads, "1. Appropriate counseling will be provided by specifically trained and designated faculty/staff to each student requesting condoms. 2. Condoms shall be made available to students of the SVSU as their governing boards deem appropriate. 3. In order to protect student privacy, no records will be maintained relating to requests for condoms. 4. The individual student will decide whether to access the available services. 5. The specific administrative procedures will be designated by grade level."
While the policy does leave open which schools could provide condoms, there are currently no plans to expand the program beyond the high school.
"Reading through it, it doesn't seem like a good policy to me," said board member Timothy Schroeder, "It's not even much of a policy. It seems like at every level someone could make their own decision, without guidance."
"There's too much unstated," said Bullock, who said the policy would be further clarified in administrative regulations, but that those regulations have not yet been written for this policy, and could be subject to change without oversight from the policy committee.
"Right now this policy says schools can do whatever they want," said Schroeder, "That isn't a policy."
Board Chairman Ray Mullineaux said that Policy Committee Chairman Leon Johnson had emphasized at an SVSU meeting that the policy was open, and had claimed that that was a virtue.
"There's still not enough information to know how it's going to be implemented," said Bullock.
"Based on those concerns, there's the potential it could do more harm than good," continued Bullock, "I would err on the side of caution and not support it."
Mullineaux advised Bullock to return to the policy committee next month with those suggestions, and the board agreed to table further discussion on the policy until those concerns are resolved. The policy must be approved by all SVSU member boards to go into effect.
The North Bennington Prudential Committee meets the second Wednesday of every month in the library at the Village School of North Bennington. Full recordings of the meetings are available on Catamount Access Television, and on the station's YouTube page.
Derek Carson can be reached for comment at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.