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Teen pregnancy task force gives report

Recommendations include separating school nurses from system

Recommendations include separating school nurses from system

May 10, 2006|By KAREN HANNA

WASHINGTON COUNTY

Teenagers have said they need more consistent information about birth control and sexually transmitted infections to keep themselves healthy, members of a teen pregnancy prevention task force told the Washington County Commissioners and Board of Education representatives Tuesday.

School nurses' offices should be separate from the school system, so teenagers can feel free to discuss personal issues, such as sexuality, said Maureen Grove, executive director of Girls Inc. and task force chair.

"Ideally, we want our teens to be abstinent, and there's nothing wrong with that message, as long as it's not the only message," Grove said.

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According to Grove, the rates of babies born to girls ages 15 to 19 are increasing. More than 80 percent of teen mothers are unmarried, she said. In 2004, the county had the fourth highest birth rate in the state among people ages 15 to 19.

"It's really scary," she said. "Last year, we had 13- and 14-year-olds with chlamydia and gonorrhea."

In surveys of students, task force member Meredith Williams, a pediatrician, said teens have said they want to find ways to communicate with their parents about sex. The students also want more consistent access to the family-life curriculum, which currently is offered to students in grades 5, 7, 8 and 10, Williams said.

Teen pregnancy-prevention assemblies for ninth-graders begin this week, according to information provided by the Board of Education.

Teens have suggested after-school programs and media campaigns targeting both young people and parents to help bring down the rates of teen pregnancy, Williams and Grove said.

At the end of the meeting, Grove said separating the nurses' offices from the school system would allow nurses to offer students services such as testing for sexually transmitted infections. She said during the meeting many students are not aware they can get free condoms at the Washington County Health Department.

"The ramifications would fall on the health department, not the Board of Education, and students would have access to whatever their needs would be," Grove said after the meeting.

While Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook charged the task force with identifying its next steps and funding needs, Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the problem will take more than money.

"It's not about money, it's the cultural milieu," Morgan said. "It's about working with the young men and women to see the consequences of their actions, which we do every day."

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