In this interview, I had the opportunity to chat with sophomore community council representative Rolf Vanbibber about his new proposal to council. This proposal, dubbed the Protective Proposal, would repeal an outdated rule in Souhegan’s school board policy preventing faculty members such as counselors and nurses from providing students with free protective products.
Hey Rolf, can you introduce yourself?
Hi, I’m Rolf. I’m a sophomore representative on Souhegan’s Community Council and I was an at-large member last year. I’m currently bringing forward a proposal to repeal Souhegan’s current ban on the distribution of protective products by faculty members.
How did you come across the rule against contraceptives?
In my free time last year as I became familiar with Souhegan’s policies to better represent my grade, I stumbled upon the rule in the Souhegan District policies. I’ve actually been planning on creating this proposal since February, but then as the pandemic hit, that delayed everything.
What made you realize this was a problem?
I think initially upon seeing it I was just surprised that it was a policy at all. I thought what good does that do?
Are you taking Souhegan’s health class currently?
I am taking it, yes.
Do you think that Souhegan’s sexual education unit effectively covered and explained the benefits of protective products?
I believe the NH Department of Education only requires that health classes generally cover HIV and STIs. However, Souhegan does have a sexual education unit, and my class is introducing it now.
Do you think students will support a change to this rule?
I think that students do support the proposal. From what I’ve seen, students overwhelmingly support this change. A poll done on The Claw’s Instagram showed that about 85% of students would support this proposal.
So the rule as it is, right now, stops faculty from handing these products out. What are the biggest pros and cons of repealing that rule?
The pros would be preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as preventing teenage pregnancy. It would also teach students to practice safer sex in the future by building good habits now. The cons would include possible student mischief and misuse of contraceptive products, as well as parents or community members that may feel conflicted on the issue because of their religious or political beliefs.
Do you think that this change could blur the boundary between faculty and students? That was a concern that was expressed during the poll.
Although awkward, I think that it would help strengthen relationships between students and certain faculty members, particularly with current and future social workers or nurses. Students who trust those faculty members will go to them for resources.
What do you think of the suggestion that we repeal this rule but only certain faculty members are allowed to hand out these products? Guidance counselors, nurses, and resource officers specifically.
I think that will probably be brought forward as an amendment to this proposal, but I’m not yet sure if I’d personally support it. I think that if an advisor, health teacher, or another faculty member was a close resource for a student, it would be difficult to go around those rules. I believe that if there was an advisor or trusted teacher that a student went to, they should be allowed to distribute these products.
Your current proposal aims solely to repeal the rule, right?
Yep. It’s just to repeal the ban, nothing else.
Have you spoken with faculty members about this proposal?
There are some faculty members on the executive council who I spoke to on December 1st about the proposal as I was presenting it. Those I spoke to were in support of bringing it to council. The only thing that they asked of me is that I do more research on nearby schools that have these policies and see their strategies. They also asked that I speak to School Board member Amy Facey, so that she can be prepared to communicate with the board if it is passed, and the school nurse Denise.
Do you know of any neighboring schools that have policies about this? Nashua, Milford, Hollis Brookline?
I’m currently researching it. From what I’ve found, there are no New Hampshire laws requiring or restricting the distribution of protective products to students. Milford doesn’t seem to have any rules about it, and I don’t think they have a ban. I plan to do some further research and reach out to schools nearby.
Who worked on the proposal with you?
Tony Labranche, when he was still at Souhegan, helped me go through the process of writing a proposal and formalizing it. I also had some co-sponsors, such as PJ Cloutier-Kennedy and Max Hogan. There were quite a few students I spoke to separately about the proposal, but they had no formal place in writing it.
If the proposal is approved, what will be the next steps?
If it gets approved, I believe it’ll be sent to the school board to be put into policy, and they would most likely vote on it.
How do you think the school board will reply?
I can only predict that they’ll look for community feedback before making a public decision to support or not support it. I think a lot of teachers and parents would have concerns and may express backlash. I do believe it will pass if there’s enough student support.
What are your thoughts on getting that feedback yourself, such as from sources like the Amherst Facebook page or other sources in the community?
I think I’ll go to the Amherst Facebook page to see how Amherst parents and community members feel, and I would very much like to push for a formal non-deciding school wide poll.
What do you have to say to students and community members who worry that this proposal could interfere with students and families’ religious and political beliefs?
I’d say that I think the pros heavily outweigh the cons here. This proposal would help students build safe habits for life.. In these times, we are realizing that health and protective products are more important than ever. On the topic of this change possibly encouraging students to have sex, I believe it’s important for people to realize that teenage sex is, in the end, inevitable; I’d rather they get condoms from the school than resort to practicing unsafe sex..
Thanks for doing this interview with me, Rolf.