Sunday, Sept. 9, 2007
Middle ground on sex education might have big payoffs
SEPT. 9, 2007 - - Many statistics about the state's teenagers
- School dropout rates here are among the highest in the
nation with as many as half of students who start the ninth
grade not finishing the 12th grade in four years.
- One of the top reasons teen-aged girls drop out of school
is because they become pregnant (31 percent), according
to the National Dropout Prevention Center at Clemson University.
- More South Carolina high school students (56 percent)
have sexual intercourse than the national average (46.7
percent), based on a 2003 survey.
- The birth rate for South Carolina teen-aged females in
2000 was 59 out of 1,000 - down from 65 in 1,000 in 1988,
but still higher than the national average of 48 in 1,000.
In 2006 according to the S.C. Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy,
some 9,543 South Carolina girls from 10 to 19 were pregnant
and had 7,587 babies.
- While the teen pregnancy rate in South Carolina has dropped
in recent years, it is still four to six times higher than
that of the Netherlands, Germany and France, according to
So if a big reason that teen-aged girls are dropping out
of school is related to being pregnant and if pregnancy rates
are still above average, doesn't that suggest that doing more
to curb pregnancy rates will lower the school dropout rate?
Charleston activist Janet Segal thinks so. And she thinks
better sex education in the school might be a key to cutting
pregnancy and dropout rates - which more than likely would
have the added effect of lowering the number of unwanted children
and cutting abortion rates.
The state law that guides sex education, the Comprehensive
Health Education Act, isn't horrible, says Segal and others.
But while it mandates at least 750 minutes of instruction
on reproductive health and pregnancy prevention, school districts
across the state today often focus more on teaching abstinence
than about birth control.
"If we were to teach science-based sex education in
the schools and talk about birth control and have it available
and accessible, then we would see the rates dropping even
further," she said, pointing also to lower birth rates
and abortion rates in European countries. "They're doing
something right over there. We're repressing sexuality. We're
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Heritage Community Services in Charleston focuses on abstinence
education. Its programs, which have received more than $12
million in state and federal funding since 1995, are a "logic
model that addresses the risky behavior of adolescents from
the perspective of changing the behavior that is causing the
problem rather that dealing with the consequences of the risky
actions," according to its Web site.
CEO Anne Badgley said the organization, which some South
Carolina school districts have used to provide sex education,
doesn't really focus on birth control options. Talking to
kids about abstinence, she says, has helped drop pregnancy
rates in ways that earlier prescriptive education focusing
on contraception didn't.
Still, she said she wasn't opposed to others teaching about
birth control methods.
"I do not have a problem with teaching about contraception
according to state law, but there needs to be sensitivity"
to using language appropriate to children, she said.
State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Charleston, says there's been
a long struggle in world views over how to teach sex education.
He says conservatives like him want to teach about right and
wrong behavior with moral overtones, while others seem to
want to let kids make their own decisions - - a "relativist
approach" that undercuts messages about abstinence.
There is no real "safe sex," he argues, other than
refraining from it. Condoms and other birth control devices
provide "safer sex," but aren't foolproof.
"I wouldn't want to jump out of a plane with a parachute
that opened 95 percent of the time and that is the consequence
of an unwanted pregnancy," he said.
Still, Campsen, like Badgley, says he isn't opposed to education
about contraception - - if abstinence is stressed and not
given lip service. And interestingly, Segal isn't opposed
to educating kids about abstinence - if contraceptive options
aren't given similar lip service.
Bottom line: Sex education is an issue that has polarized
politicians for years, but perhaps folks who you might not
think would ever agree are actually closer to a livable middle
ground. One thing is for sure: if students got better and
more information about sex, perhaps they wouldn't engage in
as many risky behaviors - which might lead them to be able
to stay in school.
Andy Brack, publisher of Statehouse Report,
can be reached at: email@example.com.
SC was into revolution
Revolution of 1719 was a popular, almost bloodless coup led
by Arthur Middleton and a host of prominent colonist. It ended
proprietary rule in South Carolina. Proprietary governor Robert
Johnson was deposed on December 21 and James Moore Jr., a
respected landowner and war hero, was proclaimed provisional
governor, setting the stage for South Carolina's transformation
into a British royal colony.
The Lords Proprietors of Carolina intended their colony to
be a moneymaking proposition from the outset. With the bottom
line as their top priority, they governed Carolina erratically
and ineffectively, and always with economic expediency in
mind. Initially the proprietors resisted representative government
and incited bitter factionalism in the colony. When they failed
to see any return on their investment after several decades,
their overbearing leadership turned to outright neglect.
Statehouse Report has partnered with USC
Press to provide readers with an interesting weekly
historical excerpt about the state. Each excerpt, which
is used with permission and not for republication, is
taken from The
South Carolina Encyclopedia, a 1,077-page book
published in 2006 with entries by almost 600 contributors
and edited by noted historian Walter Edgar. We hope
you enjoy this new feature.
The failure of the proprietors to assist South Carolina during
and after the devastating Yamassee War (1715-1718) and against
pirates (1718-1719) provided colonists with galling evidence
that the men in London had placed personal profit above the
public welfare....The Commons House of Assembly, represented
the colonists, responded (to vetoes of key legislation) by
appointing officials, raising new taxes and revising the quit-rent
law in open defiance of proprietary authority. In November
1719, Johnson was informed by members of the legislature that
they were "unanimously of Opinion that they would have
no Proprietors' Government." They passed a "Resolution
of Grievances" justifying their actions. ... The provisional
government maintained the reins of power, blocked two attempts
by Johnson to overthrow them, and maintained a sound economy.
-- Entry by Louis P. Towles, The
South Carolina Encyclopedia
Another great cartoon by Bill McLemore:
Why insurance companies want to cancel policies
To Statehouse Report:
Normally speaking, flood insurance protection is capped at
$250,000 and damage caused by either a storm surge or wind-driven
water is not covered by wind insurance. Note the following
paragraphs from "Will
climate change devastate coastal property insurance?":
But if water rises from belowfrom
a flood or a storm surgeand damages your home, then
you would have to file a flood-insurance claim. The federal
government manages the flood-insurance program, and any
property owner can buy it at relatively modest prices.
By contrast, homeowners insurance, including wind
coverage, is increasingly costly in hurricane-prone areas
and difficult to find. In 18 states along the Gulf Coast
and the Atlantic seaboard, most major insurers are in retreat,
selling fewer policies or not renewing them at all.
In Florida and Louisiana, more than 600,000 homeowners
policies, which include wind coverage, were canceled in
the wake of Hurricane Katrina and other 2005 storms. Companies
have ratcheted up premiums and deductibles for coastal homeowners,
narrowed terms of deductibles, or turned away new customers.
The primary reason that property insurance is no longer readily
available in Mississippi, or affordable when it is available,
is that thousands of plaintiffs are seeking to recover under
their wind policies for damages caused by wind-driven water,
including the flood surge. Until the issue is decided with
finality, insurance companies are going to seek to minimize
their risks. One way to do that is to cancel polices.
-- Dan Norfleet, Summerville, S.C.
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