"No one funds prevention education," says Tiffany Thompson, communication and operations supervisor for Philadelphia Fight's Youth Health Empowerment Project. Thompson, who previously worked at CHOICE, says that principals and teachers frequently prevented her from demonstrating how to use a condom.
Howard Waxman, a physical education and health teacher at the school district's Philadelphia Military Academy at Elverson, says that though he focuses his lessons on abstinence, he must pack sexual education into a three-month ninth-grade health course that also deals with issues like drugs and mental illness. And though the school district says it makes condoms available at every high school, Waxman does not.
"Of course we educate on it, but we don't do that," says Waxman. "We're more along the lines of advocating abstinence. Obviously, of course, they're going to do it. I bring in condoms, show them what they look like, how to apply one, how to take it out of package without damaging it. But we don't bring them in and say, 'Here you go, guys.' We're not going to encourage it. I couldn't do that personally."
Philly's new Health Department-run safe-sex campaign, TakeControlPhilly.org, distributes free condoms to teens. They'll even mail them to you. But the school district seems unwilling to rock the boat, adopting a variation on the "abstinence-only" theme: denial.
"There's no uproar," Long says of the district. "So they just ignore it."
CHOICE's Green says it will take a movement of parents to force the district's hand and, perhaps, change its outlook. "We look at sexuality as a problem ... something that needs to be fixed, instead of as a normal part of development," says Green.
Sexuality is about more than danger: It's a normal, healthy and good part of life. It's a poorly kept secret, and the kids will definitely find out.