San Marcos CISD’s Child Development Center at night. Photo by Sean Batura.
By SEAN BATURA
Teen pregnancies in San Marcos CISD have decreased in the last few years. There are 29 pregnant students at San Marcos CISD this year, which is nearly half finished.
Since the school district began keeping statistics in 2002-03, the school district has averaged 74 pregnancies. The high point was 82 pregnancies in 2006-07, followed by 79 in 2007-08. The number fell 17.7 percent to 65 in 2008-09, then hit 67 in 2009-10.
Enrollment at the school district has climbed slowly through those years. In 2009-10, the school district enrollment was 7,434. A year earlier, it was 7,438.
One of the 29 pregnant students this year is a middle school student, said Jennifer Vogel, San Marcos CISD’s program coordinator for its Child Development Center (CDC), which operates the district’s school age pregnant and parenting program. Vogel said there are usually no middle school pregnancies until the spring. Seven middle school students became pregnant and used the CDC last school year.
There were 159 teen parents, boys and girls, served by the CDC in the 2002-03 school year, 174 served in 2003-04, 180 served in 2004-05, 166 served in 2005-06, 171 served in 2006-07, 156 served in 2007-08, 169 served in 2008-09, and 171 served in 2009-10.
“We know just from students talking with teachers and administrators that many of our girls are engaging in sexual activity for the purpose of becoming pregnant, because they think that’s going to make them happier, that someone’s going to love them,” said Pam Guettner, San Marcos CISD director of curriculum and instruction, speaking to San Marcos CISD trustees on June 24 during a discussion about sex education curricula.
Guettner said sex education curricula adopted by trustees on July 19 includes the teaching of “refusal skills” and methods to build self-respect and self-esteem.
The repeat pregnancy rate for students served by the CDC was 47 percent in the 2002-03 school year, 42 percent in 2003-04, 31 percent in 2004-05, 17 percent in 2005-06, 15 percent in 2006-07, 11 percent in 2007-08, and seven percent in 2008-09. Five students gave birth again in the 2009-10 school year, an eight percent repeat rate.
The CDC offers classes to children of teen parents and district staff ranging from infants to those of pre-kindergarten age. Of the 87 babies served at the CDC so far this school year, 15 have belonged to district employees, and 15 to 20 district employees use the CDC every year, said Vogel, who added that 61 children are currently enrolled at CDC.
Among the services offered by CDC are child development services for teen parents enrolled at San Marcos CISD, a social worker and team of interns for teen parents, and parenting classes for high school credit. The CDC also offers transportation services for teen parents, job readiness for teen parents, licensed child care, child development services for district employees, and academic support for teen parents both enrolled and not enrolled in San Marcos CISD.
Teen parents are exempt from paying fees to use the CDC, aside from a $50 registration fee and penalty fees that may be assessed for failing to file for child support without cause. Some students qualify to be exempt from the $50 registration fee through programs administered by the Texas Workforce Commission.
Depending on the ages of their children, district staffers pay from $120 to $140 per week for the CDC’s services. Vogel said the CDC’s budget has been about $325,000 for the past five years. Asked exactly how much the district funds the CDC on average, Vogel said the district provides 100 percent matching funds for a state-awarded Pregnancy, Education, and Parenting (PEP) grant. Vogel said the PEP grant was $57,000 this year and has averaged the same amount for the last three years. Vogel said the PEP grant has ranged from $40,000 to almost $90,000 in previous years. Vogel said about 90 percent of the CDC’s funding comes from public and private grants.
Students served by the CDC are required to maintain passing grades, though district staff has some discretion in whether to terminate services for poor academic performance.
“If they are failing with a 68, there is some grounds to review it, but they would be on a plan with a mentor and tutoring to give them the more enhanced services,” Vogel said. “Ultimately, we want them to be passing and earning credit. And we do everything we can to help them get it. If they need to go to Saturday school, after school tutorials, the A+ online credit system — any of those mechanisms will be accessed based on their individual needs and what can work for them.”
Vogel said the district terminates CDC services for about six teen parents per year. Vogel said most terminations occur because the parents stop attending school or are excessively truant. Vogel said the CDC addresses issues related to students’ jobs before terminating services.
Vogel said six children by district staff are on the CDC’s waiting list at the moment. Student parents are given top-priority, and district employees may wait can include up to a full school year in some of the limited classroom age-specific spaces, Vogel said.
“We intend on having no teen parents on a wait list,” Vogel said.
Vogel said the CDC collaborates with about seven different departments at Texas State. The university provides the CDC with interns and technical support, among other services.
Vogel said total numbers of pregnant students and student parents for years before the 2002-03 school are unknown.
“Prior to that time, data was not consistently kept and is not required by TEA (Texas Education Agency) to be kept,” Vogel said.
Vogel said there are many opportunities for interested people to volunteer at the CDC.
“We average over 2,000 hours’ worth of volunteer hours here,” Vogel said.
Vogel said social service organizations contribute items such as shoes, bags, books, and blankets, and she said some church groups hold diaper drives for the CDC.