On the last day of classes, principal Gwendolyn Cooke announced to the students at Lemmel Middle School that two eighth-graders had gotten pregnant during the school year.
It was considered good news. In previous years, up to eight students at the West Baltimore middle school had gotten pregnant. Cooke credited Campaign for Our Children, a program that encourages abstinence, with the drop.
Campaign for Our Children Inc., an ongoing five-year drive to persuade 9- to 14-year-olds to delay sexual activity for at least one year, is part of Lemmel's curriculum. Its radio messages play on the school's public-address system. Brochures are given out to parents.
In its slick television and print ads, Campaign for Our Children reiterates the responsibility of having babies. The most recent campaign reminds teen-age boys that even a minor can be compelled to pay child support: "You play, you pay."
Tomorrow, the successes at Lemmel and other pilot schools in the program will be explained to representatives from the Southern Regional Project on Infant Mortality, meeting in Baltimore at the Peabody Hotel. Hal Donofrio, executive director of the campaign, and Bronwyn Mayden, executive director of the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy, will pitch the local program to representatives from 17 states.
The program's founders have contended that Campaign for Our Children works by encouraging children to discuss sex with their parents. Last year, at five elementary schools used as test sites, 91 percent of 95 students surveyed said they knew of the campaign; 80 percent described it as "very, very helpful;" and 75 percent said it helped them discuss sex and related issues with their parents.