106 teenage girls in Seward County get pregnant per 1,000; more than twice the State of Kansas teen pregnancy rate of 51. 6 per 1,000. School board members are looking at ways to fight this problem. Courtesy photo
School board offers a solution for ‘babies having babies’
By ANANDA coleman
• Leader & Times
Everyone in USD No. 480 would like the district’s teens to be number one — but not like this.
Seward County has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state of Kansas, with an estimated 106 out of 1,000 young women ages 15 to 19 are pregnant out of wedlock.
While this statistic is dismaying for any citizen in the county, it especially affects USD 480 School Board members and anyone associated with West or South Middle School or Liberal High School.
“This is, basically, babies having babies,” said Tina Rickman, a Guymon resident and worker at Liberal’s Birthline Pregnancy Care Center at the USD 480 Board Meeting on April 5. Rickman presented a program to the board that could serve as a possible solution to the teen pregnancy problem in the schools; this program would not only be implemented at LHS but at both middle schools as well.
“We started teaching this program at the later part of 2007. The numbers at that time in Guymon were 59 pregnant young women in a junior high and high school,” Rickman said. “In 2009, after students heard out ‘Just Wait Program,’ the numbers went down to a 27. That’s a 46 percent change in pregnant young women”
Rickman is well seasoned in using this program. Her first year teaching it, she went to 13 different schools – not just Guymon.
The program was developed in Denver. Rickman and two other ladies in this area, went to Denver to become certified teachers of the material.
“I’ve used this program in my own life and I can tell you this program does work for (adults) as well as young people,” Rickman said. “This program is love education for the preparation of marriage. It’s about abstinence.”
Rickman explained that the class’s primary focus is a basic understanding of the differences between popular dating practices and having a real, meaningful and lasting relationship with a person of the opposite sex.
“This is a Christian-based program,” Rickman said. “It’s based on Christian morals, but you wouldn’t be able to tell it unless I told you so. We teach them to start relationships on a foundation with communication. Then we talk to them about what they want to be, to set goals,” Rickman said.
The more obvious problems of premarital sex in teens are also addressed in the program.
“The STD factor is mostly for the high school (in our course),” Rickman said.
She views this more as a brush-up on what students should already know.
“They’ve already had the health class in about 6th grade but what we’ve put together is almost a refresher course,” she said.
The average high school relationship lasts approximately 3 months, according to Birthline’s “Get Real Program,” a similar program also for high school students. Rickman and her colleagues aim to change this.
“We’re trying to get children out of the mentality of what I call ‘the definition of insanity’ – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results,” she said. “We teach them the different levels of relationships. There are all kinds of relationships: mother-daughter, father-son, aunt-uncle, friend, boyfriend-girlfriend, husband-wife. You don’t go to one level until you can test the person at that first level.”
According to Rickman, this problem not only has its roots in what teens think is ‘cool,’ it comes down to the more fundamental problem that they don’t know of any other way to have relationships.
“There are some young people that don’t believe there’s even such a thing as a lasting marriage because they’ve never seen one. We let them know that there is such a thing,” Rickman said.
If implemented, the class would not be a mandatory one at any school.
“We do have permission slips for the parents to sign off on before their child comes to the class,” Rickman said. “We don’t want children going home and telling their parents what they learned and having those parents get upset because they didn’t realize what we’re teaching their child.”
While it’s Rickman’s goal to have as many students as possible hear this information, she knows that “we can’t reach them all, but I think 46 percent change is a big change,” she said. “I believe it could make a big change in your school district as for the number of pregnancies. I believe it will change your numbers drastically.”
The school board is expected to vote on the “Just Wait Program” at next month’s meeting.