Birth Control in Schools
Schools are the one institution in our society regularly attended by most young people-nearly 95% of all youth aged 5 to 17 years are enrolled in elementary or secondary schools (National Center for Education Statistics, 1993). Large percentage of youth attend schools for years before they encounter sexual risk-taking behaviors and a majority is enrolled at the time they initiate intercourse.
Just as youth in communities with high rates of poverty and social unawareness are more likely to become pregnant so youth in schools with high rates of poverty and social inadequacy are also more likely to become pregnant. In particular, when female teens attend schools with high percentages of dropout rates and with higher rates of school vandalism they are more likely to become pregnant. The lack of opportunity and greater disorganization in some minority communities in this country, teens in schools with higher percentages of minority students are also more likely to have higher pregnancy rates than teens in schools with lower percentages of minority(Manlove, 1998).. Students in these studies, it is often difficult to distinguish the impact of school character from the impact of the community characteristics in which they reside. Social scientists and educators have suggested a wide variety of explanations for how schools reduce sexual risk-taking behavior. Some of their explanations have observed research supporting them, while others are credible, but lack supporting research. For example, educators concerned with adolescent sexual behavior have suggested that:
1. Schools structure students' time and limit the amount of time that students can be alone and engage in sex. 2. Schools increase interaction with and attachment to adults who discourage risk-taking behavior of any kind (e.g., substance use, sexual risk-taking, or accident-producing behavior). More generally, they create an environment which discourages risk-taking. 3. Schools affect selection of friends and larger peer groups that are important to them. Because peer norms about sex and contraception significantly influence teens' behavior, this impact on schools may be substantial. However, just how schools affect selection of friends and peers is not clearly understood. 4. Schools can increase belief in the future and help youth plan for higher education and careers. Such planning may increase the motivation to avoid early childbearing. As noted above, multiple studies demonstrate that educational and career aspiration are related to use of contraception, pregnancy, and childbearing. 5. Schools can increase students' self-esteem, sense of competence, and communication and refusal skills. These skills may help students avoid unprotected sex.
Despite the growing strength of the abstinence movement across the country, large majorities of adults favor SEX and AIDS education that includes discussions of condoms and contraceptives. For example, a 1998 poll of American adults found that 87% thought birth control should be covered (Rose & Gallup, 41-53), a 1998 poll found that 90% of adults thought condoms should be covered (Haffner & Wagoner, 22-23)and another 1999 poll found that 82% of adults believed all aspects of sex education including birth control and safer sex should be taught . (Hoff, Greene, McIntosh, Rawlings, & D'Amico, 2000). Given both the need for effective educational programs and public support for such programs, schools have responded. According to a 1999 national survey of school teachers in grades 7 to 12, about 93% of their schools offered sexuality or HIV education (Darroch, Landry, & Singh, 204-211, 265). Of those schools teaching any topics in sexuality education, between 85% and 100% included instruction on consequences of teenage parenthood, STD, HIV/AIDS, abstinence, and ways to resist peer pressure to...