A teen-ager's best source for facts about sex is another teen-ager.
That's the theory behind a new program approved by the Baltimore school board last night to promote sexual abstinence among students.
The federally funded program will employ high school students as paid "peer counselors" to talk with eighth graders about sexuality and abstinence.
And in a city where teen-age pregnancy is rampant, the program is essential, said Andrea Bowden, a specialist with the school department's office of science and health.
City and state health statistics show that the teen-age pregnancy rate in Baltimore rose dramatically among girls under 15 during a recent two-year period.
The average age of first sexual intercourse ranges from just under 13 years of age for black males to about 16 years of age for white females, a health official said.
"Obviously, we have kids that are getting involved too early," said Bowden. "We hope the kids will delay sexual involvement, will delay having intercourse, until they're older, until they can act more responsibly."
The $52,036 program, funded by a grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control, will be offered at 10 middle schools initially, as part of the eighth-grade health curriculum. It could be expanded to middle schools throughout the city in the next school year.
The program calls for high school students to talk to younger students about peer pressure, the value of abstinence, the consequences of early sexual activity and other issues involving their sexuality.
The 15 high school students will be paid $4 an hour for their work, and must make up any class time they may lose from participating in the program.
The program will include a pair of 90-minute sessions for parents, intended to help them communicate with their children and teach them responsible sexual behavior.
Bowden said similar peer counseling programs are in place in a number of cities around the country, including Atlanta.
In other activity last night, the board:
* Approved a "satisfactory" evaluation of school Superintendent Richard C. Hunter's performance in the 1989-90 school year. The evaluation cited progress in such areas as budget, organization and parent and community involvement. It also noted the need for stronger day-to-day management, citing the appointment of a deputy superintendent as one remedy.
* Decided to drop the possibility of closing Pimlico Middle School. The move followed a city task force's recommendation that more than 2,000 families with children be relocated from the city's high-rise housing projects. The recommendation could affect future enrollments at Pimlico and other middle schools in the city's northwest sector, a board resolution said.