Group pushes for 'uniform' sex education curriculum
August 14, 2012 ·
In 2010 West Virginia had the seventh highest rate of teen mothers in the nation according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Virginia Free wants to see uniform sex education in the state.
High teen birth rates are not new to West Virginia. Between 2007 and 2009, teen births among 15- to 17-year-olds rose 17 percent while the rest of the nation saw no increase at all.
West Virginia Free a nonprofit, reproductive health rights group has several recommendations for reducing teen pregnancy in the state. One in particular is using a ‘uniform comprehensive’ sex education curriculum.
Margaret Chapman Pomponio is the Executive Director of West Virginia Free.
“West Virginia has relatively progressive policies with regard to sexual health education,” she said. "The problem is they’re inconsistently implemented so one county may have one curriculum and another county may have another.”
“Our assertion is that the more comprehensive the approach the better the educated the youth will be and we’ll start to see a decrease in teen pregnancy.”
“What we’re saying is that each county needs to become compliant with what the policies are at the state level.”
Pomponio would like to see every school in West Virginia teaching sex education to use research, evidence based programs.
“They have a number of different research based programs available to them," she said. "Basicaly they can choose that program a lot of them are tailored culturally some program are geared toward African American use some are geared toward males. They really have a lot to choose from."
"So we’re just saying choose a program implement it and let’s see the teen pregnancy rate go down.”
West Virginia policy has certain standards but does not force specific programs into the classrooms. Mary Weikle is the West Virginia Department of Education Coordinator of Health and Physical Education.
“These are broadly worded instructional objectives," Weikle said, "and it allows health teachers to provide comprehensive instruction and skill development that promote health enhancing and health risk reduction it.”
“Specifically on sex education we have standards and objectives that will encompass grade levels 5 through 12 and basically it’s intended to allow teachers and policy makers to use these health standards to design their curriculum and allocate instructional resources.”
Pomponio suggests that without requiring research evidence based programs, students are missing out.
“Each administrator at every school," Pomponio said, "starting in middle school needs to start teaching about prevention and risk reduction healthy decision making and the content standards laid forth by the department of education are very clear about each component that needs to be addressed.”
Weikle points out that cultures vary from county to county about the often sensitive topic.
“Just because something is evidence based does not mean that it’s meant to be employed in every school," Weikle said. "You still have to go back to the local county level and see what the need is and who better knows that than the counties and the schools themselves."
“It’s the values of the community and we need to give respect to what their value system is.”
The state began offering training to all health teachers this past year but again it’s up to the instructors to tap into that resource.