Schools don’t prepare kids

Abstinence policy fails to equip teens for real world.

By Barbara Goodmon

The Wake County school board has voted to return to solely teaching “abstinence until marriage.”

Whether to teach abstinence-until-marriage only, or comprehensive sex education stressing abstinence as the best practice, has supporters on both sides who can make very convincing arguments — morally and intellectually.

Furthermore, while we lack definitive data quantifying the impact of  comprehensive sex-education programs on decisions made by middle- and upper-school students, we know that education always helps on any topic. We know there’s an impact; we just don’t know what it is.

We do know that the 2002 incidence of teen pregnancies among Wake County teens ages 15 to 19 was 34.4 per 1,000 for Caucasians and 67.5 per thousand for minorities, and for those ages 18 to 19 was 59 per thousand for Caucasians and 124.6 per thousand for minorities.

We also know for a fact that the reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) begin to rapidly go up for those ages 17 and older.

A Wake County report in 2001 documented that fewer than 40 cases of STDs were treated for those ages 10 to 15, compared to 200 cases for those ages 17 to 20, and more than 500 cases for those ages 22 to 25.

And we know that the number of HIV cases in college students is on the rise.

Since June 2001, at least 56 college students have been diagnosed with the infection. In Wake County, HIV cases in those ages 18 to 25 increased from 6 in 1998 to 23 in 2003.

At the very least, these statistics tell me that kids are leaving high school unprepared and uneducated to make the hard decisions they will face in the future concerning sex.

The consequences of this are unwanted pregnancies, unwanted babies, infertility, STDs, HIV, AIDS, ruined lives, or even death. What a waste of potential! Also, these consequences are at an increased cost to taxpayers.

It has always been my opinion that when you identify a serious problem, you give it all you have, which means you need to be attacking it from every direction – morally, intellectually and economically.

And no matter how you look at it, society is failing to educate our kids about a critical health issue.

By restricting its sex education policy, the school board is putting our children at even greater risk.

Barbara Goodmon is president of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal, and a member of the board of Wake County Human Services.

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