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Pregnancy prevention assembly postponed

May 11, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN

The first pregnancy-prevention assembly for Washington County Public Schools high school freshmen has been postponed because too few students got permission from their parents to attend.

In all, 12 to 20 people participated Wednesday in a meeting for parents at South Hagerstown High School previewing the material the postponed assembly was intended to provide students, according to figures provided by two Washington County Public Schools administrators.

Ed Masood, supervisor of arts, health and physical education/athletics, characterized as "totally false" perceptions the school system has not done enough to address the county's birth rate among teenagers. He acknowledged during a meeting of fewer than a dozen adults Wednesday he felt he was "preaching to the choir" in efforts to educate parents about the role they can play in their children's sexual decision-making.

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"When I see a 30-year-old female with a 15-year-old daughter with a 2-month-old baby, you don't correct that in a class or an assembly," Masood said. "You have got to change the culture."

In 2004, teen mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth to 206 babies in Washington County, according to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Of 400 people who tested positive with new cases of chlamydia that year, 149 were between the ages of 15 and 19, Masood told parents during a graphic presentation that will be shown to students at the pregnancy-prevention assemblies.

South High Principal Richard Akers said he was not surprised just about 12 percent of the school's freshmen class of about 360 returned consent forms to participate in the assemblies. The forms were distributed to students last week, he said.

"Our fear was that this could happen, just that not that many of them would make it home, and if they did make it home, not many of them would make it back," Akers said.

In an effort to increase parent awareness about the programs, Masood told parents at North High the school system now plans to send by metered mail information to all ninth-graders' homes.

"We feel that we blew it. OK, I said it. We blew it," Masood said.

Though he participated in the meeting for parents at North High, Josef Ott said he does not intend to allow his daughter to attend the school's assembly, which is scheduled for Tuesday.

He told Masood he agreed with most of the program, but could not support statistics promoting the effectiveness of condoms. Because of his opposition to abortion, Ott said he also does not accept the use of the emergency contraception taken after sexual intercourse. The so-called "morning-after pill" does not cause abortion, according to the presentation.

According to the presentation, abstinence is the only 100-percent effective way to avoid pregnancy and disease, Masood said. Condoms are about 85 percent effective with typical use, he said.

Masood was emphatic at the beginning of the meeting that the school system has no plans to provide students with condoms, which are available free through the health department.

"We are not in the business at this time, or any time in the future as I see it, as was brought up in the meeting with the County Commissioners and the Board of Education (Tuesday) morning, to have the health room be a distribution center for condoms," Masood said.

Ott, who compared using a condom to playing Russian roulette, said he and his wife are teaching their 14-year-old about chastity.

"It's refreshing that there are people that have a similar viewpoint," Ott said. "You can't play Russian roulette, if you truly love your kids."

According to Masood, about 20 parents attended an evening meeting Monday at South High. Akers put the figure at about a dozen. He said the school now likely will conduct its meeting for teenagers the morning of May 31.

Meetings for parents at the other high schools will take place a few days before the schools' assemblies later this month, according to a schedule provided by the school system.

"I would hope that parents are concerned, and that they're not under the false understanding that some kids are, that this can't happen to me," Akers said.

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