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Washington County schools work with groups to prevent teen pregnancy

May 12, 2008|By BERNADETTE WAGNER

I am honored to be an elected member of the Washington County Board of Education and equally proud to serve as the board's liaison to the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition (WCTPPC).

Both organizations are committed to supporting, developing, educating and empowering students to reach their fullest potentials.

For many years, WCPS, through its Family Life curriculum, taught about human sexuality, pregnancy prevention and the importance of abstinence using grade-appropriate lessons. With the formation of the WCTPPC, the Washington County Public School system has partnered with many of the other member organizations to provide even more educational opportunities for students.

One of the goals of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition is to facilitate communication between generations on the topic of sexuality.

To support this goal, WCPS holds a parent informational meeting prior to its ninth-grade assembly on human sexuality held at every high school.

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Parents have an opportunity to view the presentation, pose questions and talk with staff members before granting permission for their students to attend. In conjunction with the health department and Girls Inc., these assemblies address important topics such as reproductive health, sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted teen pregnancies.

The Coalition and WCPS hope that these assemblies will serve as a catalyst to spark much-needed dialogue between parents and their children, not only about physical aspects of human sexuality but about the importance of loving relationships, respect and responsibility.

WCPS does not wait until high school to begin its Family Life curriculum. Fortunately, the school system employs itinerant Family Life Teachers who introduce the topic of human sexuality in gender-specific fifth-grade classes across the county. This information is supplemented and augmented in seventh grade and again in eighth grade, for students whose parents have granted permission for them to participate.

Each grade level of the Family Life curriculum is approved by the Family Life Advisory Committee, a group of citizens comprised of parents, physicians and other health experts. At the middle school level, in addition to the reproductive system, prenatal development and birth, the curriculum addresses issues such as sexual harassment, assertiveness training and the components of healthy relationships.

WCPS also has dedicated and committed health teachers who delve into these issues on a more mature level during 10th grade. Since health classes meet every day for an entire semester, students have the opportunity to develop relationships with their teachers, and might feel more comfortable talking about their feelings and seeking accurate information.

It is extremely important for teens to have knowledgeable adults in their lives with whom they can comfortably talk about difficult topics.

During May, which is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, I urge all parents and students to thank the teachers who teach this delicate content area.

I also urge any interested readers to consider joining or financially supporting the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. All contributions are tax- deductible.

The director, Carrol Lourie, can be reached at 301-671-3000.

Bernadette Wagner is a member of the Washington County Board of Education.

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