San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

December 7th, 2010
School district pregnancy rate falling since 2008

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San Marcos CISD’s Child Development Center at night. Photo by Sean Batura.

By SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

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.

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10 thoughts on “School district pregnancy rate falling since 2008

  1. It would be interesting to have the state and national statistics for teen pregnancy. I’ve heard SM is high. I also wonder what the reason is for the dramatic drop.

  2. What shocks me is , “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.” Where are these teens parents?

  3. I’m with Leah. I attended high school in Wisconsin, and I think throughout my four years, I know one or two girls who had babies in school.

    Did some girls terminate unwanted pregnancies? Undoubtedly. This was in the ’70s, when most high school kids understood that if you became a parent as a minor, your future was sealed and not in a good way. We had very few dropouts, because even kids who weren’t going to college knew they needed a HS diploma to get the kind of job that would support a reasonable quality of life.

    Obviously, things have changed dramatically since I was in high school, and this is true everywhere, not just in San Marcos. But as Leah suggests, these kids’ parents seem unable to communicate the lifelong consequences of teen pregnancy, at least for the girls who get pregnant. (I doubt there is much in the way of consequences for the boys.) Why is it that these parents don’t want to see their kids succeed and build better lives for themselves and, one day, for their own children? Why are they so willing to accept more of the same, generation after generation, with everyone going nowhere?

    Educating teen girls on how best to rebuff the advances of their boyfriends is a great idea and I’m all for it. But clearly, the parents of these kids need some serious education as well.

  4. What are the lifelong consequences? If generations of friends and family have gone through our failed school system, to marry their high school sweetheart (or not marry at all), and get a local “job,” then these kids are over-achievers, getting an early start on life, by the examples we have set and the path laid out for them. If college and a career are never an option to begin with, then what exactly are they giving up?

    It seems unlikely that they don’t know how to avoid pregnancy. My experience is that they have no compelling reason *why* they should avoid pregnancy. That same message is clear in the quote Leah cites.

    There’s plenty of responsibility to go all around. We need to work to make a future other than babies and hourly-wage jobs a realistic option for these kids. That may mean an outreach to the parents, among other things. Simply wagging our fingers is not enough. To paraphrase Rick Perry, as a community, this may not be our responsibility, but it is our problem.

  5. Bravo Tarl!!! You have asked the questions no one here in San Marcos wants to deal with – many of us call it, “the elephant in the room” because the issues are so obvious but rarely spoken of.

    “Why is it that these parents don’t want to see their kids succeed and build better lives for themselves and, one day, for their own children? Why are they so willing to accept more of the same, generation after generation, with everyone going nowhere?”

  6. We had two school board trustees, Jesse Ponce and David Castillo argue that their faith in god did not allow them vote in favor of teaching safe sex because it went against their beliefs. Maybe if we pray for higher graduation rates, more funding from the state, and a superintendent who can fix all of our problems – we will get them! Just an idea.

  7. Mike, I’d love to hear your answer. I suspect it is for the same reason that my parents don’t expect me to become a Rockefeller – because nobody in my family has ever done it, none of my friends’ families have done it, none of my parents’ friends have done it, so nobody can really explain how it is done and it isn’t considered a realistic goal.

    Sure, my parents wouldn’t intentionally hold me back from achieving that goal, but if you look at the paths that “old money” kids follow and you look at the path I followed, a case could be made that they unintentionally held me back. Or at least that they steered me down a path they understood, which led to realistic success by their measures.

    I am significantly more successful than my parents were at my age. I feel comfortable that you would probably think that I am successful. By the standards of others, not so much. It is unlikely that the Kennedys would look at my 40-50 hour a week career, my 1/2 acre (or less) lot and my (one) modest house and say that I’ve “made it” by their standards.

    Look at all of the poor, inner-city kids who go on to professional sports and all of the kids who try like hell and don’t make it. They work their asses off, to repeat a pattern that has led to success for others, and they do it because they understand what it takes, whether they have the ability to make it to that level or not.

    Success and “better lives” are relative terms. If we want more people to achieve what we believe to be success, we need to do more to show them the way and make it a realistic goal. That’s my theory, anyway.

  8. Ted, I don’t disagree with you. I don’t necessarily believe that many parents of pregnant teens and drop-outs happily support those life choices. And you are likely onto something with your theory that, for better or worse, they are teaching their kids what they know and understand.

    I do think we need to find more effective ways to show kids that getting an education is the best, most likely way to pull people out of poverty. And parents need to be better equipped to help guide them through that process.

    By no means are these easy problems to solve. If they were, we’d be back down to two teen pregnancies in a high school, and drop-outs would be few and far between.

  9. “I do think we need to find more effective ways to show kids that getting an education is the best, most likely way to pull people out of poverty. And parents need to be better equipped to help guide them through that process.”

    Sounds like a great opportunity for the city and the university to collaborate on an outreach program. Perhaps try to get some of those parents to finish high school and/or go to college (or other continuing education), to lead by example and better their positions in the process. Perhaps the city could use some of its generous tax incentives to convince local employers to implement/promote continuing education programs for their employees.

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