Radcliffe, Houston Chronicle, January 14, 2008
Sandwiched between lessons on counting calories and staving off
disease, high school health teachers will offer hefty doses of
parenting advice in the next school year.
A new state law requires that parenting and paternity awareness
be included in the high school health curriculum by 2008-09. The
State Board of Education plans this week to adopt a curriculum
developed by the Office of the Attorney General, an agency
charged with, among other duties, cracking down on fathers who
fail to support their children.
"We saw that taking a preventive role would be very important,"
said Janece Rolfe, a spokeswoman with the attorney general's
office. "We think it's certainly never too early for children to
The curriculum first was written in 1995 but is being revised to
fulfill the mandate.
Jean Smith, who oversees the teen parenting program in the Alief
school district in southwest Houston, said she's thrilled that
students will be exposed to the information. Alief has used it
for about five years in parenting and child development elective
courses, she said.
"It's fantastic. It's real life about the paternity laws," she
said. "They have pieces about relationships. The curriculum has
activities where the teenagers can learn about themselves."
Middle schoolers could even benefit, Smith said.
"It needs to start sooner, frankly," she said. "If they're
watching soap operas and movies and all of this by age 13, then
they need to be exposed to what relationships are all about."
'Children raising children'
State Board of Education member Terri Leo said she could
understand why others might think the ninth and 10th grades are
a bit premature for most students.
Unfortunately, she said, statistics show that many teens need
Birth rates among 15- to 19-year-olds in the United States rose
slightly in 2006 to 41.9 births per 1,000 girls, according to
recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
"If they're going to become parents, which I prefer they not do
at this age, they need to know some of this information," said
Leo, a Republican from Spring. "We all hate sometimes having to
have these discussions, but I do think there are difficult
things we need to talk about with these kids."
Mercedes Alejandro of Houston, whose 16-year-old daughter has
two pregnant friends, applauds the state for making sure teens
"It's kind of like, it happens or it's going to happen, and the
consequence if we do nothing is that it's going to be children
raising children — children who are unaware or unprepared," she
said. "And the information about the child support, the boys
need to hear that."
Perry has 'concerns'
Donna Price, secondary science and health academic coordinator
for the Humble district in northeast Harris County, agrees that
the topics have merit but is concerned about how teachers are
going to squeeze the lessons into an already crowded class.
"The tricky thing is that health in high school is just one
semester," she said. "Trying to pack it in and making it
meaningful is definitely challenging."
She also wonders whether the information will seem pertinent.
"You're talking about 15-year-olds," she said. "For them to be
able to cognitively process it and understand the consequences,
you can only hope for the best."
Gov. Rick Perry also had concerns about prescribing such a
specific curriculum. Last spring, he explained why he wasn't
going to sign the law.
"These goals are worthy of attention in high school health
classes," the statement said. "However, I have serious concerns
about the Legislature mandating programs be included in the
Texas curriculum. Additionally, it is always my preference to
focus on preserving a high-quality core curriculum that focuses
on college and workforce readiness."
State education board President Don McLeroy said he hasn't heard
any concerns about the plan and expects it to win easy approval
Here are some of the topics expected to be covered in the
proposed Parenting and Paternity Awareness curriculum:
• What is a parent?
• Establishing paternity
• Benefits of legal fatherhood
• What it takes to be a parent
• Single parenting
• Parents who don't pay
• Love, marriage and a baby carriage: What's in your future?
• Choosing healthy relationships
• Marriage and families
• Looking at relationship violence
Source: Office of the Attorney General
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