In the ‘90s, a middle school music teacher, a colleague of my husband, asked me to suggest and loan her a videotape from my collection - a musical which would appeal to her students. Without hesitation, I said, “ ‘West Side Story.’ The kids will love it, and you can tell them it’s based on Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ ”
Regrettably, she returned the movie with a disappointing note. In the movie, there’s a scene in Pop’s candy store, where members of the Jets attempt to rape Anita, who has come to warn them that the Sharks are ready to rumble. The scene is nothing more than very tasteful choreography by the master Jerome Robbins and is prevented when Pop intervenes.
The principal stuck his head in her music classroom just as this scene was unfolding onscreen and ordered her to stop the film.
“That’s a real shame, “ I told her. “Does he think these kids don’t know about sex?”
I could not help but recall the incident when a report on local CBS affiliate WSPA caught my ear.
This same school, some 15 years later, now has a sex-education program which is a model for the nation. More than that, it’s a program which is working.
Connie LeGrand of WSPA reports (LINK):
“A sex-ed program in Anderson County (SC) is receiving national attention for its effectiveness in decreasing teen pregnancies. Anderson District 3’s model is featured in an article in Time magazine which hit news stands Monday.
“The program is called IMPACT, and it’s financially supported by the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Anderson County. Students at Starr-Iva Middle School take the classes from sixth through eighth grades. The District wants students to know that abstinence is the safest choice, and the only sure way to prevent pregnancy, but the comprehensive sexual education program adds information about birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, skill-building and role-playing to help students make that decision.”
“The program started five years ago, and in 2006 there were 19 (teen) pregnancies in the district. By 2007 that number dropped to four, and in 2008 there were only two. According to Starr-Iva Middle School Principal Mike Ruthsatz, it improves students’ self-esteem. ‘You can just see it … towards the end of the year, I’ve seen a lot of the students, they are a lot more outgoing, and they are more confidant about themselves,’ says Ruthsatz.”
Hats off to the Starr-Iva Middle School community for such caring support of its kids.