Colorado

May 3, 2010 10:13 PM by David Ortiviz

Groups advocate for more sex education in schools

In the midst of budget cuts for our schools there's one area of education some want to see expanded in Pueblo: sex education. Data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows the teen pregnancy rate in Pueblo jumped 7% from 2005 to 2008.

"In Pueblo we've had a problem with teen pregnancy for decades," said Sarah Ruybalid, Community Health Director at the Pueblo City-County Health Department. According to the health department, each year roughly one out of every 17 teenage girls in Pueblo gets pregnant--and of those two thirds drop out of school.

"It really does impact young people and families," said Lori Casillas, Executive Director of the Colorado Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting and Prevention. The teen pregnancy prevention group and the Prevention First Colorado program held a workshop at CSU-Pueblo Monday morning.

One topic that seemed to surprise everyone in the room was the lack of sex education in schools. Students in School District 60 must take one semester of health class, which includes sex ed in high school, but it's an elective in middle schools. The health department says in School District 70, it's an elective at both middle and high schools.

"I do think we're failing our youth when we don't make health education a priority," said Casillas.

"I would strongly advocate that school boards need to be incorporating sexual and reproductive topics" said Toni Panetta, with the Prevention First Colorado program.

Under Colorado law, schools that teach sex ed are required to talk to students about abstinence and condoms and birth control, but apparently, not every middle or high school student in pueblo is learning that. "I want you to know we are working with both school districts to try to implement the law on sexual health in the schools," said Ruybalid.

Ruybalid says it's been hard for the districts to add more programs in the midst of big budget cuts. However, with more teens getting pregnant, the groups argue more prevention education needs to happen at home and at schools.

The Pueblo City-County Health Department has received a $50,000 grant to study unintentional and intentional pregnancies among teenagers and how to reduce the cycle.

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