The Willcox School Board discussed at their Feb. 5 meeting the district’s partnership with the Cochise County Health and Social Services and Arizona Youth Partnership for use of their free curriculum on abstinence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs for this semester and in the future.
Beverly Eskue, with Cochise County Health and Social Services, said there are several programs available through the department, all of which are free to school districts. The middle school program, Making a Difference, has a number-one goal of abstinence as the only safe way of preventing pregnancy, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. It also gives information to help in making good decisions, Eskue said.
The program has eight one-hour lessons for eighth-graders, and boys and girls are taught separately.
Board member Bill Nolan said, “We have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state, with 50 percent of high school students sexually active. And we have no sex education at any level in the district. That’s one reason I ran for the board. I think for ages 11-13, the abstinence curriculum is the way to go, but in high school we need more.”
“In the year my son taught school here, five of 50 girls out of the 100 kids in class were pregnant – that was 10 percent of 12-13-year-old girls in Willcox. We need to address this issue,” Nolan said.
The board unanimously approved the Making a Difference curriculum for eighth-graders for this semester, and chose to look into high school curricula in the near future.
Parents of eighth-grade students must opt-in on a permission slip for their children to be in the Making a Difference class. Parents may also ask to look at the curriculum.
“I think it’s good,” said Board member Dwayne Owen, “I think we should have (pregnancy prevention classes) in the whole school with a chance for parents to opt out.”
As for a high school curriculum, the administration thought a public comment night would be in order to assess community values before making a choice, as some curricula include a condom demonstration, Eskue said.
Board Vice president Debbie Ellis said, “I think we should have the curricula available at a parent-teacher conference night in March for parents to look at.”
Willcox Schools Superintendent Dr. Richard Rundhaug said he is trying to arrange to have Eskue there for one night during the March parent-teacher conferences to answer questions and show the curricula available. The date will be announced later.