In theory, $51,000 could buy a lot of condoms and prevent a lot of babies and STDs (if used correctly). Unfortunately, that’s not how Communities in Schools of the Charleston Area will be spending the $51,422 given to the organization by the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation for teen pregnancy programs. That’s because Charleston County schools implement programs that are either abstinence-only or abstinence-plus. All programs are approved by the district’s Health Advisory Board.
Communities in Schools will install full-time staff members at five North Charleston schools — North Charleston and Stall high schools and Morningside, Northwoods, and Zucker middle schools — who will implement an approved abstinence-only curriculum to certain students and classes. “Anything that we do is in the confines and in the design of what the Comprehensive Health [Education] Act permits to information to be passed on to school-aged youth,” says Jane Riley-Gambrell, executive director of Communities in Schools. The information is research-based and approved by the school district and its Health Advisory Committee.
The schools were selected because of the teen pregnancy rates in the North Charleston area, and Communities in Schools hopes to lower these rates. “Our mission is to help children to be successful, to stay in school and graduate from high school. That’s what we’re after,” Riley-Gambrell says. “Our mission is to decrease the number of dropouts and increase the graduation rate, and being a teen parent makes it quite difficult for a youth to stay in school.” But when 19 girls aged 15-19 are giving birth in South Carolina every day (according to the South Carolina Campaign to End Teen Pregnancy), how effective is this kind of abstinence-only programming?