Students lack sexual health clinics

Since closing of Angles, access to contraceptives is limited

Angles, a local clinic providing sexual health counseling and services, closed in 2016, leaving North Shore teenagers without nearby alternatives to address their sexual health.
According to NBC news, 16.9 years is the average age at which teens lose their virginity, suggesting that the average student needs access to contraception during their high school years.

With Angles’ closure last March, the nearest clinic is now on the north side of Chicago.
Youth Services, a mental health organization based in Northbrook, acquired Angles due to insufficient funding. On their website, they stated that they provide sexual health education classes on Tuesdays and also offer free condoms.

However, when asked directtly, the program manager was unsure if these safe sex supplies were actually available. Youth Services is also not a health clinic, so they are unable to prescribe medication, including birth control, to students.

New Trier doesn’t offer condoms or other forms of contraceptive devices to students.
Colleen Sheridan, School Nurse of the Winnetka campus, explained, “It’s really just when schools have a student-based health center when that’s an option. We don’t have an overriding physician or hospital that can say we have the authority to write a prescription for birth control or hand out a condom.”

Evanston Township High School does have a student-based health center or clinic.
For students to have access to the clinic their parents must give permission. While some schools require parents to opt-in to programs that may provide contraceptive devices, Evanston has a unique opt-out program.

The opt-out program offers parents the ability to limit any services offered to their children by the clinic. Lynn Gettleman-Chehab, one of the doctors working at ETHS, has never in her 11 years seen a family opt-out of the clinic’s services.

Chehab maintained that the clinic was “the best medical care in which I have ever participated.” She went on to state that, “the most important aspect of having a school clinic is that you really get young people involved in their health.” Chehab sees the potential for New Trier to have its own student-based health center, affirming that “[the clinic] is fantastic, especially in New Trier. You have a student body that could support this.”

Chehab also challenged the perspective that school nurses can’t hand out condoms. “[Nurses offices] can hand out condoms, you don’t need a medical degree to hand out condoms.”
Sheridan, however, maintained that “we do not have prescribing rights here, so I cannot hand out birth contraception or condoms.”

Condom distribution within public schools has been controversial.
There have been three court cases that have addressed the issue.

The two most recent ones, Parents United for Better Schools, Inc. v. School District of Philadelphia Board of Education and Curtis v. School Committee of Falmouth, both ruled that schools creating condom distribution programs did not infringe on any familial or religious rights.

There are no laws that address whether a school needs a health center in order to distribute condoms.

Some New Trier students believe that having a nearby clinic or health center would be beneficial. Senior Anahi Toolabin was surprised that the school does not offer condoms. “If there were a clinic, people would go because it’s non-judgemental,” she said.

Senior Bennet Blake also assumed that the school had a program to distribute condoms, thinking that students would visit given the lack of a nearby clinic.

Sophomore Margaret Hecht agreed that a clinic would be useful and recalled several of her friends needing to go to drugstores to buy a condom.

While Chebab believed that New Trier could use a clinic, Sheridan said the community didn’t feel a need for one. She explained, “I think most of our families are well connected with physicians and have the ability to go to physicians of their choice, so we have not seen it as a need here.”