Teacher: Students don't unroll condoms on bananas

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— Steamboat Springs High School health teacher Lonn Clementson acknowledges that teaching sex to high school freshmen and sophomores is a delicate matter.

"I spend a lot of time and focus working on a curriculum that is respectful to students with the hope that they are comfortable," he said. "We don't force abstinence - we explore abstinence, and we don't make them touch any materials that may make them feel uncomfortable."

Clementson said students sometimes pass around contraceptive boxes to read the labels, but they don't test condoms, spermicides or other products on bananas, cucumbers or any other prop.

A high school student was quoted in a story on page 1A of Sunday's Steamboat Pilot & Today as saying she once put a condom on a banana in her health class.

"I unroll the condom on the tip of my index and middle fingers in front of the class to show how to properly use it, and I will also ask for a student volunteer to come back through the steps as a review," Clementson said. "I always choose someone who I think can handle that."

Clementson said students also study diagrams to get a better idea of sexual anatomy.

"These are lessons you'd learn in entry-level anatomy in college, and we take a very professional, respectful way of addressing this topic," he said. "One of the reasons it is done the way it is, is we think information is king in making informed choices. At the same time, we respect the family, religious beliefs and the thoughts of the 14-, 15- and 16-year-old students if they don't want to grab the box or touch anything."

Clementson stressed the school's sexual education curriculum promotes abstinence first but also makes sure students know the facts about sex.

"Latex condoms have been around for a long time," he said. "With that, we talk about success rates and failure rates. That's why we always circle around to abstinence. Condoms are successful 98 percent of the time to prevent pregnancy, but the problem is they are not as safe with STDs, and especially so when they are not properly used.

"I also do a presentation on how a condom is chosen in a store," Clementson said. Size and whether a condom is lubricated or has spermicide are topics addressed.

"I also talk about how a condom can break down, and how to store it," he said. "Heat, cold, friction and expiration dates all play a factor in its success."

Principal Mike Knezevich noted the sexual education program is opt-in, and students who don't feel comfortable are not required to participate.

"Our responsibility is to give accurate information to the students, but it is up to them and their parent or guardian whether they want to be part of the lesson," he said.

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