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Mia Bell, Curriculum Director
Mitchell County, GA

“It is with great pleasure and pride that I convey the progress of our abstinence education program. The 2001-2002 school year marked the beginning of one of the most life changing projects ever to exist in this county. Our school system is located in an impoverished rural county in Southwest Georgia. The student population for last year averaged approximately 2,758 students with 1,354 of these students in grades 5-12.

“Teen pregnancy has been a complex problem in Mitchell County and despite all of the other intervention programs in existence, the number of pregnancies continued to climb. The STD stats as well as the teen pregnancy rates for our district / county revealed the need for an on-going sexuality education program. Students were already receiving a variety of sexuality education information from other community groups; however, this information addressed the “safe sex” issue. Instead of total abstinence being the only sure-fire way to avoid an unintended pregnancy or an STD, these groups are promoting the use of condoms as an effective means for preventive purposes.

“In our quest for the most appropriate curriculum to use, we were very concerned about the message that we were presenting to our students. The Mitchell County School’s Abstinence Education Program reaches approximately 900 students per semester during the school based component and approximately 40 students during the after school component. Our curriculum of choice is the Choosing the Best series. We are using Choosing the Best WAY for our students in the 6th and 7th grades, Choosing the Best PATH for our students in the 8th grade and Choosing the Best LIFE for students in grades 9-12. We chose this particular curriculum because it delivers the most accurate, age-appropriate, abstinence-centered based information.

“In the first year our pregnancy rate dropped from 49 to 19. We also had an after-school program for 15 parenting seniors. Not one had a repeat pregnancy, and they all graduated. Before we had a high dropout rate, so that was a plus.

“For so long, abstinence was considered impossible to achieve and that’s the impression that was presented to our children. The students had the overall impression that living sex free until marriage was totally impossible and that their only recourse was to use birth control to prevent the complications that may arise as a result of this reckless behavior. No one had ever given the students the extended version of the sex before marriage dilemma.

“Very little if any information had been presented to our students on the consequences of their behaviors. They were misled to believe that condoms were the magic cure all and that this particular barrier would protect them from ALL STD’s if used correctly. They were clueless as to the fact that HPV and Herpes can still be transmitted even with the use of a condom. They were oblivious to the fact that skin-to-skin contact is a major transmission mode and that a condom cannot provide complete protection.

“The Choosing the Best series has offered our students an opportunity to once again see the beauty and the values that they possess. Low self worth is a major problem with our young girls. They don’t see their inner beauty anymore and therefore, they look to the opposite sex for approval, justification and the attention they so desperately desire. With this program the students have a channel to express their innermost feelings. I have seen them divulge information in their classes that they probably would never say in their health and/or biology classes. There have been many occasions where students will remain after class or come by my office to ask questions and remarkably, there remain many misinformed students.

“The abstinence message is vitally important to so many children. Parents have been extremely supportive because they see the effects of our efforts. Students are placing more emphasis on self-development vs. sex. Our students have excelled with the program and it is our desire to continue to ignite each student’s inner flame. For a student to say that she has decided to become a secondary virgin or that she/he will continue to adhere to her virginity is proof that the abstinence message remains alive and viable.”