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Schools plan meetings to talk about sex

Parent participation sought in screening presentation

Parent participation sought in screening presentation

May 04, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Parents will have the chance to screen a graphic sexual-education presentation offered to ninth-grade students when Washington County Public Schools begins a series of teen-pregnancy awareness meetings this month.

According to Ed Masood, supervisor of arts, health and physical-education/athletics, parents' participation is a key factor in combating the county's high teen-pregnancy rate. In an assessment of teen attitudes toward sex, Masood said respondents ranked their parents as having the most influence on their choices, but he acknowledged that community members expect the school system to do more.

"There were nine different groups - Group No. 9, the least impactful on students' sexual behavior was teachers - so why do people keep saying, 'Teach it in the schools?' We need to say, 'It needs to be taught in the home,'" Masood said.

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According to a Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene report, 206 females ages 19 and younger gave birth in 2004 in Washington County. Fewer than 15 percent of the teenagers were married at the time.

At evening meetings planned for parents this month, Masood said he would present an overview of the information that will be covered at assemblies for ninth-graders. The in-school assemblies will include information about sexually transmitted infections and contraception.

Students will need their parents' permission to attend the assemblies, Masood said.

The first of the parent meetings is 5 p.m. Monday at South Hagerstown High School; the first assembly for students is Wednesday at South High, according to a schedule provided by Masood.

The parent meetings will last about an hour, while the student assemblies will take about 1 1/2 hours, Masood said.

Both the meetings for parents and the student assemblies will feature slides from a PowerPoint presentation prepared by the health department, Masood said. A copy of the presentation provided to The Herald-Mail earlier this spring included images diagramming how to put on male and female condoms and the effects of conditions such as the herpes virus and chlamydia.

Masood said he plans to tell parents that the schools' health offices are places where students can discuss the consequences of sex confidentially. While they do not offer contraception, the health offices will provide students with information about where to get it, he said.

Masood said Wednesday he does not know how many parents will turn out for the meetings. Permission slips for the student assemblies were distributed Tuesday, he said.

With high schools preparing for state testing, Masood said scheduling the assemblies has been difficult. But, he said the schools feel pressured to address social ills - including gangs and drug and alcohol abuse - even as they tackle academics.

"We need to step up to the plate to address a lot of these things that we are charged by society to address," he said.

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