Monday, March 8, 2010

Abstinence FAIL:
375 Girls Pregnant in Austin Schools

Teens in AISD have definitely still got it. Graph from the Onion.

In February I was invited to attend "Continued Conversation with Dr. Carstarphen: The State of Student Health in AISD," a meeting of school officials and community partners to tackle one of Superintendent Carstarphen's "Big, Hairy Audacious Goals"-- decreasing teen pregnancy. Pregnancy among teen girls, along with childhood obesity, is the biggest contributor to poor attendance and dropout rates among students in AISD.

Nearly 400 girls in AISD are receiving pregnancy case management services from Student Health Services*, which means that more girls could be pregnant and are choosing to have their pregnancy managed elsewhere or terminating their pregnancy before the district has time to count them as pregnant. The good news is that there are only 26 pregnant middle school girls; the bad news is that in the high schools, there are 349 girls who are currently pregnant, a 7.76% increase over the past year and a nearly 50% increase over the 2005-06 school year. The pregnancies are broken up by school as follows:
  • Akins: 140
  • Anderson: 10
  • Austin: 9
  • Bowie: 2
  • Crockett: 34
  • Eastside Memorial: 10
  • International: 3
  • LBJ: 12
  • Lanier: 10
  • McCallum: 16
  • Reagan: 40
  • Travis: 63
AISD's policy on sex education mirrors that of the state, which is to say it mostly prohibits any discussion of actual methods of preventing pregnancy and STIs. It explicitly prohibits the demonstration or distribution of contraceptive methods, including condoms, and it also prohibits outside agencies--from Planned Parenthood to Austin LifeGuard--from coming into the schools to do sex education programs. The only thing schools can do is make pamphlets about contraception available at the back of the classroom and hope they make it into the hands of students who need them. (Spoiler: they usually don't.)

The map below shows the schools with pregnancies this school year:

The verdict is in on abstinence education, and it doesn't work any better in Texas than it does anywhere else--but AISD's hands are tied by the state's policy despite the district's embarassingly high teen pregnancy rate**--31.06 per 1000 girls. That's higher even than Texas' state rate for girls of the same age, which is 25.9 per 1000 for 2005.

Furthermore, according to the same report issued at the AISD meeting, "an emerging Travis County community health issue related to teen pregnancy is the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among adolescents." The rates are:

  • Chlamydia: boys: 253.4/100,000; girls: 1826.4/100,000
  • Gonorrhea: boys: 109.1/100,000; girls: 435.2/100,000

The overall Texas rate for Chlamydia: 365/100,000; overall Travis County rate: 526/100,000. Ouch, AISD.

With the evidence of high teen pregnancy rates and sky-high Chlamydia/gonorrhea incidence, Austin has its work cut out for itself in trying to somehow find wiggle room in the archaic state policy to provide essential information to its students. Perhaps more prescient, considering AISD's ongoing budget crisis, is the fact that nearly 400 girls are getting case management services provided by the county at a cost that surely exceeds what it would cost to provide actual health information and condoms to students who are very clearly already having sex. I think it's time for AISD to make some changes. Let's hope Dr. Carstarphen has the will to get the job done.

*"Children's/AISD Student Health Services School Year 2009-2010 Report. PRS [pregnancy resource services] Services." Provided by AISD staff at the Conversation With Dr. Carstarphen--February 9th, 2010. Interestingly, there is no mention on the AISD website about these services.

**These data, which come from AISD's report, include only girls ages 13-17 which is why the rate is so much lower than the overall Texas rate of 88 pregnancies per 1000 girls ages 15-19.

1 comment:

  1. OMG at the chlamydia and Gonorrhea rates...especially in teenage girls. Texas is dumb not to push for comprehensive sex ed with these rates of STIs and teen pregnancy.