The city of Normandy, Missouri, is a small village in St. Louis County that sits just north and slightly west of the city. It has a population of about 5,100 at last count. It’s a town of working class people with the average median income of about $25,000; far less than Joe the Plumber makes. Up on Lucas and Hunt Avenue sits Normandy High School. It’s part of the Normandy School District, which has about 5,000 students. On October 23rd Normandy High School made the national news. Fox and CNN did in-depth stories on what happened there. The school issued a press release and notified parents that “up to 50 students may have been exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.”
The official press release was a little short on details. It simply said that one individual had been identified as having HIV and that 50 other students may have been exposed. It also said the school district was offering free HIV testing to all of the students. Due to medical privacy laws, the release wasn’t specific as to how the student got infected and why they believe that other students may have been put at risk. This of course, led to wild speculation in the press. Was one of the students at the high school so sexually active that he or she may have put some 50 kids at risk? Or was there rampant drug abuse at the school and the fear was that shared needles could have spread the disease? There was even speculation that the scare could have been caused by illicit tattooing going on at the school.
While the news media and I’m sure parents, were wildly speculating as to the cause of the scare, according to the Riverfront Times, (www.riverfronttimes), many of the area’s HIV/AIDS advocacy groups were taking a more proactive approach. Planned Parenthood announced that it would be offering free HIV testing at ALL area high school students as of October 27. The St. Louis County Department of Health also offers free testing. According to Missouri State law, STD testing, along with substance abuse and pregnancy treatment does not require parental approval.
Maybe we should think about following the Netherlands model. Comprehensive sex education there begins at the age of 12 and free condoms are available at the high school level. The rate of venereal disease infection and pregnancy in the Netherlands’s high schools is very low. One principal remarked that in his high school of 800 students, there was only one teenage pregnancy the entire year. Compare that to the rampant rate of teen pregnancy and explosive growth of venereal disease among teens in this country. What about abstinence you may ask? Study after study shows that it simply doesn’t work. Students simply substitute other forms of high-risk activity in place of conventional sex..