High School Cheerleaders Benched for Handing Out Condoms


As RH Reality Check reported, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a strong statement last week in support of condom availability. The statement specifically cited schools as a good place to provide condoms to young people. But it looks like school administrators in Wharton, Texas, did not get that memo, because last week they benched the entire cheerleading squad for putting condoms in “school spirit” bags.

The cheerleaders at the school are responsible each year for making goody bags to give the varsity football players before the homecoming game, and this year they decided to include condoms. According to the local CBS station, the district responded by making the entire varsity cheerleading squad sit out the following Friday night’s game and giving each of the girls one day of in-school suspension.

In order to get my righteous indignation hackles up, I was really hoping for the squad to come out and say they were making a statement, trying to raise awareness about unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or, even better, acknowledging that many of the football players might have plans for after the game that would be made safer with the presence of a condom.

No such luck. All of the students who have spoken to the press say it was a gag, a joke, or a prank. A junior on the drill team put it this way: “They just thought it would be funny … cause they are guys and they are girls … you know.” Another said, “It was really a prank gone wrong. I guess. It was a harmless prank that went too far.” And the mother of a cheerleader said the squad meant it as a joke, but they now realize it was totally inappropriate. She added that she supports the district’s punishment of the girls.

While it’s not as much fun to come out in strong support of a prank as it is a cause, I’ve decided that I am righteously indignant anyhow. Students providing other students with goody bags of condoms may not be the ideal way to make the AAP’s dream of condom access in schools a reality, but it shouldn’t be entirely demonized either. I don’t agree that the move was “totally inappropriate,” nor do I think the joke “went too far.” Condoms are not dangerous or harmful in any way.

In fact, I’d argue that condoms are not only appropriate for, but vitally important to, the high school students of Texas, more than half of whom have had sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBS), 49 percent of female high school students and 55 percent of male high school students in Texas have had sexual intercourse. This is slightly higher than the nationwide data, which shows 46 percent of all female high school students and 49 percent of all male high school students have had sex. In addition, 54 percent of sexually active female high school students and 38 percent of sexually active male high school students in Texas (defined as those who had sexual intercourse in the three months prior to the survey) did not use a condom the last time they had sex. Again, these numbers are slightly higher than the nationwide rate, which found that 46 percent of all sexually active female high schools students and 33 percent of all sexually active male high school students did not use a condom the last time they had sex.

Meanwhile. according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Texas has the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation.

Given these numbers, it seems to me that a goody bag of condoms could really come in handy.

The school, however, is sticking by its punishment, saying that its “discipline decisions are based on state law and are intended to provide proper consequences and teach students proper behavior.” Of course, this has me questioning which state law might deal with cheerleaders handing out condoms.

Texas sexuality education law says that schools must stress abstinence and gets rather specific about the ways in which they should do that. According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, Texas code states that all courses in human sexuality must:

  • present abstinence from sexual activity as the preferred choice of behavior in relationship to all sexual activity for unmarried persons of school age;
  • devote more attention to abstinence from sexual activity than to any other behavior;
  • emphasize that abstinence from sexual activity, if used consistently and correctly, is the only method that is 100 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the emotional trauma associated with adolescent sexual activity; and
  • direct adolescents to a standard of behavior in which abstinence from sexual activity before marriage is the most effective way to prevent pregnancy, STDs, and infection with HIV or AIDS.

Still, nothing in the law prevents schools from teaching about contraception or condom use, nor does anything in the law address condom demonstrations or condom availability at school. In fact, schools are free to teach about contraception and condom use as long as they do so “in terms of human use reality rates instead of theoretical laboratory rates.” Somehow, however, I doubt the goody bags drew ire because they didn’t include fact sheets with information about human use reality rates.

My guess is that school officials are concerned that condoms on campus promote sexual behavior on campus, a concern shared by many, despite being solidly disproven. Research comparing schools with condom availability programs to those without has found that access to condoms does not increase sexual behavior but does increase condom use among sexually active students.

It is this research, coupled with emerging research, that shows just how much protection condoms can provide against the spread of STIs—and that informed the AAP’s position statement arguing for young people to have unrestricted access to condoms. The group said, in no uncertain terms, “Schools should be considered appropriate sites for availability of condoms because they contain large adolescent populations and may potentially provide a comprehensive array of related educational and health care resources.”

Granted, the authors of the AAP statement were probably thinking of the nurse’s office and not the football field, and it is reasonable for school administrators to want to control condom access rather than have students take it into their own hands. Ideally, access to condoms would come with education on why they are important and how to use them, which doesn’t happen when they are given out as a gag. Nonetheless, I think the school overreacted, and I think the message they sent by doing so is disappointing. Rather than saying “It was inappropriate for you to take this matter into your own hands,” the harsh punishment and curt explanation for it suggests that condoms are inappropriate.

At the very least, administrators could have punished the students for violating school rules but also used the incident as an opportunity to start a discussion about condoms. Perhaps the girls could have used their in-school suspension period (which otherwise seems like a waste of a day of learning) to research STIs, unintended pregnancy, and condom availability in their community, and then reported their findings to their peers.

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  • Marlowe53

    I’m so sad for the cheerleaders that not one made the comment that some of the football players need to have condoms on hand.

    • Arekushieru

      I don’t understand why the ones who are often at risk of violation or societal ‘disapproval’ should be the ones to make the comment towards those who are at risk for neither?

  • jruwaldt

    Of course the players don’t need them. It’s the fault of the dirty sluts they have sex with. Those girls need to keep the barriers up.

  • CJ99

    high school football has a bad reputation for its players (nearly always male) acting like manskanks (not all undeserved either) do any of them get punished? no the get rewarded, but the likely victims of rape? punish them. yeah a really just society we live in….NOT!

  • Larry Dillon

    Its stupid to offer high school football players condoms. Rapist rarely use condoms.

    • Arekushieru

      That’s the flip side of victim-blaming, telling women all of their efforts to curb rape and STDs are futile. Please don’t do it, again….

      • Larry Dillon

        Lets make a deal with you pumpkin you DON”T EVER make the MISTAKE of telling what to do or not do and I wont leave you bleeding and broken on a fb thread ….how about that pumpkin…

        • Arekushieru

          Wow, threats? Really great way to make your point, Mr. Dillon. Yeah, I can just SEE why you would tell cheerleaders not to offer condoms to football players and methinks it has nothing to do with ‘concern’ for high school cheerleaders. Btw, REPORTED.

          • Larry Dillon

            SUCK MY FAG D*CK AND BRING IT ON BI**H F*&K

          • Amanda Kazarian

            Classy.

          • CJ99

            Finding someone who’d call you desirable is at best hopeless.

          • Larry Dillon

            By the way, you missed the whole point of my original post…but you’re rather simplistic

          • Arekushieru

            No, I did not. You focused your argument against the women handing out the condoms, not the men who would actually rape. How did that miss anything you said, again…? DERP? But, btw, you missed the whole point of ANY of my posts.

        • Arekushieru

          Also, lets make a deal with you PUNKIN you DON”T EVER make the MISTAKE of issuing implied threats to me, again and I won’t and/or won’t have my FRIENDS look up your IP address and give your employer/wife/children what have you a call and let them know that their relative/co-worker likes to do in his spare time. OKAY?

          • Larry Dillon

            Im gay. Have a husband not a wife. Have 1 grown kid. Retired

          • dance commander

            A gay man wouldn’t fuck you with a strapon.

          • Arekushieru

            That’s why I said what have you. Do you not read? Btw, glad to see you haven’t made any similar messages and, no, I was ignoring your attempts to reply to me, it’s just that disqus won’t allow me to see the rest of my notifications unless I read some of the ones I already have. CJ99 just happened to be the only one who did respond to me that I knew would have anything to say that was worth reading. And he only responded, here.

          • CJ99

            What such trolls as “larry” don’t realize is tracking them down is not terribly difficult and its happened before, especially when threats are made and the law is behind it, then the most time consuming part is the paperwork.

        • Arekushieru

          Any future attempts to contact me will be ignored. But, if I happen to see a reply from you on this thread with a similar message, while I’m attempting to respond to another poster, I’ll have NO problem doing what I stated below. Just putting you on notice, ‘sweetie’.

        • dance commander

          Been shoving your own dick up your own ass eh?

          • Larry Dillon

            Bend over and I’ll make you a twitching dance commander

          • dance commander

            If you had the skillz, you wouldn’t be here insulting women.

          • Larry Dillon

            I have mastered the skills…I don’t waste the talent on women

          • CJ99

            I won’t say what your a master of since thats already clearly obvious, but it can’t be described as “skills” of any kind.

          • Arekushieru

            More proof of what I said above. So, no, I don’t think *I* was the one who misinterpreted anything.

        • dance commander

          And uhm, your reaction to her was bit of an over-reaction don’t you think?

        • CJ99

          For someone who accuses others of rape you talk exactly like the other rapists.

  • Hugh Vincelette

    If groups opposed to choice are so concerned about the number of abortions, they should consider the facts & statistics. Abortion rates among Western Nations: -US- 93.0 per 1000
    -England & Wales – 62.6 per 1000 , Canada – 62.6 per 1000 , Belgium – 15.1 per 1000.

    Belgium has an excellent sex education program & schools & parents are not allowed to opt out. In the US & UK, there are all kinds of exemptions & opting out is allowed.
    It is breathtaking to see annual parades in opposition to a woman’s right to choose, marching through homelessness, hunger, destitution, & despair with apparent indifference.

    • CJ99

      Indeed its well known that those who oppose contraception in all its forms have no care in the world for those already living on this earth. Proves one thing: they only care about themselves their wealth & power. The only time they even see the poor is when they scrape them off their shoes.

      • Hugh Vincelette

        You are absolutely correct.