By Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer
Health officials said they would rather deliver the message about sexual abstinence to Portales students before students get it from their peers.
Terry Theti of the Roosevelt County Health Council said she hopes an abstinence program introduced to Lindsey Elementary sixth-graders and fifth- and sixth-graders in Elida, Dora and Floyd during the 2005-06 school year will continue.
“It was effective to separate the girls and boys,” Theti said. “Students were more willing to ask questions. This is an abstinence-only course. Some of the kids asked about condoms, but we can’t talk to them about that.”
Theti said parents are finding out their children are engaging in sexual activities at a young age.
“One of the mothers of a junior high boy found out her son was really popular because he was engaging in oral sex,” Theti said.
More than half of Lindsey’s 300-plus students participated in the federally funded Worth the Wait program during the spring semester, according to Theti. She said 140 students did not participate because waivers were not signed by parents allowing them to take the course.
Portales School Board Member Mary Lou Rowley said a reason for the low number of waivers signed may have been because of short notice about the Worth the Wait program. Theti said parents will be notified three weeks in advance for the next abstinence program instead of three days.
The Worth the Wait program consists of 10 lessons. Theti and Carol Morgan, nurse manager for the Portales Health Office, taught the class with the help of federal funds. This year, they may not receive the funding.
So, Theti said the school could use one of two options. One option is for Theti and Morgan to provide Lindsey Elementary with textbooks and the physical education or science teachers would instruct the Worth the Wait class.
The second option would be for the class to be taught and other funding sources used. Theti said she will be exploring other funding options through national organizations such as the WK Kellog Foundation or the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Theti said there are disagreements between New Mexico Secretary of Health Michelle Lujan Grisham and U. S. Department of Health officials on what curriculum should be taught. U.S. health officials want abstinence-only and Grisham wants comprehensive sex education, including birth-control methods, according to Theti.
A survey of 41 Lindsey parents felt communication between the parent and child about difficult subjects became easier after students took the abstinence course.
Also, 40 of the parents surveyed said they would allow their children to take the abstinence course once they reached the sixth grade.
Theti said 267 of 450 students from Elida, Dora, Floyd and Lindsey schools participated in the program.