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No surprise

A program to connect kids to school had no sex-ed component, but didn't need one

A program designed to get elementary students to bond with school and excite them about achieving academic success had one result the researchers didn't predict. But they shouldn't have been surprised.

The program, designed by University of Washington researchers, involved 350 children at 18 Seattle grade schools in high-crime areas between 1981 and 1986. The researchers followed the participating students' progress until they were young adults.

The unexpected result: By age 21, the pregnancy rate among young women who had participated in the program was 38 percent, compared with 56 percent for those in a control group. The birth rate among participants was 23 percent; the control group's, 40 percent.

Participants also had fewer sexual partners, and single participants were more likely to use condoms. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases was 7 percent by age 21 among participants, 34 percent for the control group.

These results especially surprised the researchers because the program contained no sex-education component. None.

That meant no education about disease and pregnancy, but it also meant no messages of abstinence, either.

Now, we don't know how much sex education the participants may have received elsewhere in their school years. But it's probably safe to assume that whatever they received, the control group also received. So the difference in pregnancy and other statistics can be chalked up to a school bonding program that didn't mention sex at all.

This may have surprised the researchers, but we'll bet it's no surprise at all to teachers and many parents, who know that kids committed to succeeding in school 'and in life ' are far less likely to make self-destructive choices because they don't want to jeopardize their future success.

Preventing those bad choices has less to do with sex education than it does with making sure kids are engaged in school and determined to succeed.

That means involving parents and helping parents and teachers work together, which this program emphasized. One of the leaders of the study noted that it didn't require specialists, just helping parents and teachers do a better job at what they already are trying to do.

All this is not to say that sex education isn't important. Young people still need accurate information about their own bodies. What it does say is that all the sex education in the world won't stop kids from making bad choices if they are disconnected from school and see no point in trying to succeed at it.

It also says that too often, we spend too much energy focusing on children's negative behavior and too little on what really matters.

Thanks, Bear Creek

County Commissioner Sue Kupillas says she appreciates the commitment to the Rogue Valley shown by Yamanouchi Inc., parent company of Bear Creek Corp.

The rest of us ought to feel the same. Bear Creek already has 120 Harry and David stores nationwide; 35 more are expected to open by the end of the year. Locally, Bear Creek employs 1,500 people full-time and more than 6,000 part-time.

In addition, the company plans to spend some &

36;50 million on its Medford campus during a five-year expansion plan announced last week. The project will add 20 to 30 full-time jobs.

Kupillas noted that Bear Creek could go anywhere in the world. A major factor in its decision to expand here was inclusion of Bear Creek in the Medford Urban Growth Boundary Enterprise Zone. Enterprise zones were created by the Oregon Legislature in 1985. Inside such zones, qualified businesses are exempted from local property taxes on new capital investments for three to five years.

The project is a good one for Medford as well as Bear Creek. Thanks, Bear Creek, for your continued investment in the community.