What do you do when you know with objective certainty that many teen-agers are going to have sex--whether you like it or not, whether religious authorities like it or not, whether it is a good thing for them or not?
And that they're going to have sex at a time when the nation is awash in unwanted teen pregnancies? And when the AIDS epidemic is hitting lower-income, minority communities with a gale-force vengeance?
Duck it, right?
That's what New York City--the AIDS capital of the nation--did for years. The city Board of Education always voted down proposals to distribute condoms in the public high schools (condoms are an inexpensive but relatively effective method of reducing the risk of pregnancy and disease). But New York is ducking no more. The city board is leaning toward distributing condoms to teen students--despite the sincere and deeply felt opposition of many local religious leaders.
The switch in position was led by Schools Chancellor Joseph Fernandez, a Latino educator in a city whose mayor, David Dinkins, is a black. Said the chancellor: "I am a Catholic, but I have to give the best recommendations to (school) board members who are faced with the fact that we have been preaching safe sex and no sex, and 80% of the kids are sexually active. Then we have to do something else."
Chancellor Fernandez is to be congratulated for his leadership--and for keeping his personal religious beliefs separate from his secular responsibilities as a public official.