The Sexist

Don’t Tell Mom Billy’s Peeing In the Cup

Something I missed while I was on vacation—D.C. will offer STD tests to every high school student in the District this year:

the tests are administered by taking groups of 15 to 20 students at a time to the restroom area. The students are given paper bags containing urine collection cups and enter bathroom stalls. Once they get in the stalls, they can choose whether or not to provide urine samples. All the students return the paper bags, so other students do not necessarily know who did or did not provide a sample. Students provide a password and then call in a week later to get their result and treatment, if necessary.

That's the good news. The bad news is that last year, a pilot program found that 13 percent of D.C. public school students tested positive for STDs ("mostly gonorrhea or chlamydia").

The really bad news? Even though "all 50 states and the District allow minors older than 12 to be screened for STDs without parental consent," some educators are
still against this initiative. The rationale? Think of the Parents:

[State Board of Education rep William Lockridge] said parents need to be involved. "Right now, if you play sports in a public school, you have to get permission from your parents. If you take a field trip, you have to get permission from your parents. Why would it be any less for this? . . . Only if the parent gives the consent upfront would I do this."

Please: Do not bring Mom and Dad into this. Under the current anonymous-paper-bag method, where kids all pile into the bathroom and either do or do not pee into the cup, about 68 percent of students elect to submit to a urine test. It's not the most private ceremony in the world. But if we were to add in an extra Parental Signature step to the ordeal, I wonder how many kids would choose not to piss?

When parents have to sign teens up for the pissing trip, they'll know when their teens are being tested—and when to badger them for the results. Teens—duh—will feel a lot less confident that their test results will remain confidential. D.C.'s teens deserve STD testing, and they deserve it to remain private. Even if they're surrounded by 20 of their fellow students in the process.

  • Coleman

    You forgot to add the tags "JUST LEAVE ME ALONE" and "I HATE YOU"

    But seriously, you've made excellent points. No one's drawing blood, no one's getting an injection, they're just getting a voluntary, free test. Mom and Dad would never understand.

  • kcr

    What a stupid argument by the Board of Ed guy. The sports and field trip waivers are clearly steps taken to limit the liability of the school in the not unlikely event that the kid gets hurt playing sports. And a parent needs to give permission for field trips because it's pretty clear that the school is not normally authorized to take kids to places that are not school--or so the argument would be made in court. What is the analogous rationale here? Now, if he had said, "we always get parent permission before we administer vision tests" you're in the realm of reasonable comparison. I understand the incentive problems created by telling parents, but what you could do is send a form home explaining that the tests would be done at some point in the school year and that any parent who did not want their child to be tested must sign and return an opt-out form. I bet you don't get many forms back and you've still fulfilled your mission of keeping parents informed.

  • TJ

    I think that was the smartest suggestion, kcr! Put the onus on the parents, if they really feel like they need to know. And how about this: if the parents were originally involved in the first place, would that 13% of kids who took the test during the pilot have STDs?