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School board OKs new abstinence-based class

Focus is on proper relationships and making wise decisions

POSTED: April 25, 2011 9:55 p.m.

Gainesville High School students will have a new abstinence-based program next school year.

The Gainesville City Schools Board of Education voted Monday night to approve “Choosing the Best Journey,” which is being funded through a state grant sought by Teen Pregnancy Prevention, a Gainesville nonprofit organization.

“We have completed the program at three schools on the county level, including Lakeview Academy, and are anxious to get going at Gainesville High School in the fall,” said Barbara Hicks, executive director of Teen Pregnancy Prevention.

The program, which emphasizes proper relationships and making wise decisions, is written for students in grades 9-10. It is made up of eight sessions, each with a different focus, Hicks said.

“Choosing the Best Journey” is part of a larger program, “Choosing the Best,” which has curriculum in grades 6-12.

Boys and girls won’t be separated for the program, “but that’s good,” Hicks said. “There’s a lot of role play, a lot of conversation.”

“Is there really conversation?” board member Maria Calkins asked.

Hicks said students have open discussions about topics such as date rape.

“There’s a lesson where we ask the guys to write down their top five qualities they are looking for in a girl, and the girls do the same, and then we have them talk about it,” Hicks said. “It’s pretty revealing.”

One session includes photos of the effects of sexually transmitted diseases.

“When I first saw them, I first thought these are dumb ... you can’t even tell what they are,” Hicks said. “But the kids were sufficiently grossed out (to the extent that) I think they should stay.

“They are not really very revealing or vulgar in any way. I didn’t think (the photos) were gross enough.”

Board member David Syfan first said he would like to get the program’s blessing from the GHS school advisory council. He backed off that suggestion once he learned that parental permission was required before students could participate.

“Further, at one of our schools, we provided a parent preview of the program,” Hicks said.  “... And that was very effective.”

The school system began to ramp up instruction on the touchy subject after the 2007-08 school year, when school officials counted some 60-plus student pregnancies, said school system social worker Jarod Anderson.

“What we’re coming here tonight for is to give you an update on what we have been doing to try to address this issue,” he said.

Anderson said “Choosing the Best Journey” is “another prevention initiative that we’re trying to do to put some more human growth and development education things in place.”


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