Teen pregnancy rates in North Carolina

Reported by Claire Simms - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Sex can be a tricky topic for parents and their kids to discuss, and it doesn't help that there are two very different schools of thought when it comes to preventing teen pregnancy.

The programs have different success rates and changes could be on the way.

Family values are the basis of the Brunswick County Health and Sexual Education Program.

Teachers tell their 9th grade students about waiting until marriage and avoiding peer pressure to have sex.

"That's been our policy for a long time, abstinence until marriage and we really have not had a request to change it," said Deanne Meadows with Brunswick County Schools.

A request to change the program could be on the way in the form of North Carolina House Bill 88, the Healthy Youth Act.

The bill would restructure sex ed programs across the state.  School systems would have to offer two different programs: an abstinence only and an abstinence-based program where students are taught about contraceptives and STD prevention.  It would be up to the parents to choose which class their child takes.

The teen pregnancy rate is 41.9 nationwide, but North Carolina's rate is significantly higher at 49.7.  Some state lawmakers say a change has to be made.

New Hanover County already offers a two track program and could serve as the model for the rest of the state.

"We've already gotten a lot of requests from other counties on how to implement the two-tracks," said program director Kiersten Wildeboer.

Wildeboer believes letting parents choose helps to reduce the teen pregnancy rate by getting parents involved at an early age.  In New Hanover County classes begin at the middle school level.

"A lot of people aren't aware of what misinformation they're getting," said Wildeboer.  "So, I think the sooner we can get realistic information, real information, real statistics to these kids, is better to protect them."

Last year 56 percent of 7th graders were enrolled in the more comprehensive stepping stones program, the program that includes information on contraceptives.  Only 19 percent chose the abstinence only course.

Over the past eight years, New Hanover County has had a teen pregnancy rate consistently lower than neighboring Brunswick and Pender Counties, where schools only offer one option for students.

Both Brunswick and Pender County school systems are sticking with their current policies.

"At this point, unless we have an urgency from outside, our data suggests that what we're doing is actually providing benefit," said Julie Askew with Pender County schools.

School administrators could have to make a change in their lesson plans if the Healthy Youth Act becomes law.

House Bill 88 is currently being read in the committee on health.  Legislators behind the bill think once it comes out of committee it will pass.

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