By C.S. Gilbert

Part I quiet advocacy of Womankind and its Executive Director Kim Romano, who served on the Monroe County School District’s School Health Advisory Committee, has changed the district’s Abstinence Plus sex education policy—in time, it can be hoped, to quell what the coconut telegraph calls an epidemic of pregnancies among Key West High School students.


Since the beginning of the 2012-13 academic year, through a $600,000 three-year federal grant obtained by Womankind grant writer Betsy Langan, two educators have been busy training teachers, finding times and classes that will reach the most students, developing materials to support the curricula, offering support to teachers, and devising way to measure the results of the program, dubbed PREP: Personal Responsibility Education Program. District-wide three-day teacher training for 2013-14 was completed in mid-November, Project Coordinator Debbie Bertolini said.



During its inaugural year, according to Bertolini, a former Key West High School teacher who was for many years employed by Planned Parenthood, PREP was introduced to sixth graders at seven middle schools throughout the Keys and to ninth graders at KWHS. “It was very well received,” she reported, noting that this year the program will expand to add seventh as well as sixth graders in the middle schools and tenth as well as ninth graders at KWHS, plus ninth graders at Marathon and Coral Shores high schools, Collegiate Academy High School, and the two alternative high schools, Keys Center Academy for girls and Academic Connections for Excellence (ACE) for boys.


The program , titled “Draw the Line/Respect the Line,” was developed by ETR (Education, Training and Research) Associates through the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. The federal Department of Health and Human Services administers the funding and grantee accountability, also in compliance with the ACA.


Classes begin slowly, with the youngest students receiving instruction not in sex education specifically but in clarifying individual family values, developing self-confidence, learning to set limits—in short, learning to say “No.”


“Key West Montessori Charter School implemented the 6th grade portion of the Draw the Line/ Respect the Line program in the spring of 2013. This comprehensive, evidence based program was well received by our families and students,” said school nurse/teacher Renee Makimaa, RN. “A curriculum with sensitive content can be challenging (but) there are statistics that support why this curriculum is necessary for our students at this early an age. As an educator, it is important to me that our students and families understand that the goal of this program is to ultimately teach abstinence. The sixth grade curriculum focuses on situations in which young people may be pressured to steal, use alcohol or smoke. The five lessons feature setting limits and refusal skills in a nonsexual context. By the end of the program last year, I had 100 percent participation from the students who attended and very positive feedback,” she said.


As stated in the Program Description and Overview, “This comprehensive, research-evaluated curriculum promotes abstinence by providing students in grades 6, 7 and 8 with the knowledge and skills to prevent HIV, other STD and pregnancy. Using (a) fun, interactive approach, Draw the Line/Respect the Line shows students how to set personal limits and meet challenges to those limits. This 19-lesson curriculum is designed to be used either by a classroom teacher or trained family life educator.


“Grade 6 features limit setting and refusal skills in a nonsexual context. Grade 7 examines consequences of unplanned sex, information about sexually transmitted disease, and applying refusal skills in a party context. Grade 8 features practice of refusal skills in dating contexts, and a condom demonstration.” The high school program reinforces skills taught in middle school and moves on to more sophisticated sex education.


PREP is “the first-ever sex education in Monroe County schools,” said Womankind ED Romano. “We were the second county in the state to offer comprehensive sexual health education and we are very proud of that.”


Part II will report on PREP’s high school program.