Condoms were distributed in classrooms at Lawrence Park Collegiate in North Toronto February 6 to all grade 11, 12 and OAC-level students who were instructed on how to put them on two fingers by “health educators.” Coasters were also distributed to all grades with the message “Play it Safe: Join the Condom Crowd.”

How safe? Five million dollar product liability insurance coverage per occurrence is being demanded of the vendor who contracts to sell condoms in Toronto public schools. The Toronto Board of Education wants the liability insurance to protect the board also.

How safe? In a lab test commissioned by the Toronto Star and reported February 10, 1990, Protex, one of the main brands being considered by the Toronto board did not conform to federal length requirements. “Protex was the only one tested that leaked; and one of two brands not complying with the bursting volume required.”

Parents could sign to have their children excused from the school program. Parents who attended a parents’ meeting were told that there would be a hands-on practice with condoms in senior grades but the information sent home made no mention of this fact.

Michael Barrett from the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN) and his wife Anne, from Planned Parenthood, Toronto spoke at two assemblies at the high school. Also at the assemblies were three people with AIDS: Paul Maingot, spokesman from the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) and two teenagers, Kevin and Kirk.

Principal Roy Harvey said in his opening remarks, “We’re not here to preach to you. We’re here to give you information and facts so that you can make your own moral decisions.”

The ACT spokesmen introduced the teens with AIDS saying, “I want to make one point very clear. They did nothing wrong. They were just not educated about AIDS.” The youths then described their experiences which between them included cocaine, heroin and heterosexual and homosexual promiscuity.

There can be no doubt that Kirk and Kevin were powerful speakers. They were frank about their own behavior. Teens more than adults believe they will live forever, yet here was someone their own age saying “I’m under a death sentence.” The audience respected them for staring death in the face. All this could have been powerful stuff as a cautionary tale to postpone sexual involvement and not to shoot drugs. Instead the lesson is lost as Kevin answers that, “Yes, I still have a sex life but it is not as good as it used to be. I wish it were better. I do use condoms and I inform my partner I have HIV.” Abstinence even after HIV infection is not encouraged by the Toronto Board of Public Health or ACT. Sex is the sacred cow and in order to worship, all faith is placed in the latex condom.

Michael Barrett used the term sexual limit-setting but then said students should acknowledge that they are or will be sexually active. Condom vending machines in schools are there to say, “We care about you.” Mrs. Barrett said condoms weren’t perfect but were the “best thing we have.” No condom failure rate was discussed in the assembly.

When the Toronto Board of Education was considering condom vending machines last September, Mrs. Barrett assured the board that condom failure was due only to user not product error. One class was told that “condom failure was due only to human error that education would correct.” Yet according to the Globe and Mail, June 2, 1989, “about 40 per cent of condom batches tested by Canadian Health Protection officials since the spring of 1987 failed leakage and strength tests.”

Dr. Richard Gordon, a theoretical biologist at the University of Manitoba, estimates that “If we take a couple, one of whom is infected with AIDS, and they are using the best condom and spermicide, the uninfected person has a 23 per cent chance of being infected after five years. With a cheap condom and no spermicide, he predicted the risk over five years would rise to 83 per cent.

In the classrooms students were desensitized to condoms. (What student could decline one on the grounds he wouldn’t need it?)  A game was played in which coasters were distributed to the students. On the back were the letters s, (safe), d, (disease) and cb, (condom breakage). Students were to get at least three signatures on each coaster. Later they were told that each signature represented someone with whom they had slept or shared a needle. In one classroom everyone became infected. In another, the s stood for single and showed two had abstained and were uninfected.

Ironically, even though cb was on one side – there was no cs for condom slippage or cl for condom leakage – the other side of the coaster carried the opposite message of “Play it Safe: Join the Condom Crowd.”

Anal intercourse was not always described as riskier than vaginal although this was covered in some classes. Greater condom breakage in anal sex was mentioned in classes that discussed anal intercourse but not in those that did not.

Last year when health educators visited Lawrence Collegiate, a teacher reported that one of them asked the class how many were sexually active. Students need to be informed of their right to privacy in such personal matters, she said. Moreover, many students give the answer they assume is expected.

One parent on the planning committee expressed frustration at having the suggestion of a speaker who would discuss chastity dismissed as unsuitable (even though the speaker proposed was a professional family life curriculum writer and would have been on a panel). Later the same parent had to flight an uphill battle to get “reasons for Postponing Sexual Involvement” included in the letter No Laughing Matter that was mailed to all the parents. No handout encouraging abstinence was given directly to the students, only condoms and condom-promoting coasters.

Sexual limit-setting was mentioned in the classes but it would seem most students were given few refusal skills or any philosophy for postponing sexual involvement. For a program that was to “present the facts” a lot of vital medical information was withheld. Full disclosure is necessary if students (and parents) are truly to make informed decisions. Condoms were given virtually uncritical approval despite the sobering lesson from the testimonies of three wrecked lives.


∙ The principal of St. Clement’s School in Toronto, Miss H.W. Perkin said that a senior class of girls had been escorted by Sue Johanson, the TV host of “Talking Sex with Sue,” to a local pharmacy to practice purchasing condoms. Parental notification and consent were not obtained by the school.

∙ Grade seven and eight public students in Toronto now have posters in their halls promoting condoms. There seem to be no posters promoting chastity in the public schools at any grade level. One senior public health nurse admitted that there was a lack of material on postponing sexual involvement.

∙ The most blatant and uncritical promotion of condoms occurs in Public Health’s play “Condo-magic” which is being performed in Metro Toronto’s community colleges. Abstinence is treated as a joke:

“Gil: Of course there are alternatives to condoms.

Maggie: Like shellacking your private parts.

  1. Like not having sex at all.
  1. Oh please!
  1. It’s a choice.

Maybe for you it is. But for myself condoms are more than just having responsible sex. They’re a fashion statement.”