"As I understand it, it is unevenly administered," Hale said.
It is part of a larger health curriculum that goes from fifth to 12th grade. It includes anatomy, but as students get older it also talks about risky behavior and how to avoid it. It helps young people be prepared for situations and how to say no. A small amount of the curriculum is about birth control, she said.
But some teachers or principals aren't comfortable with those topics, or someone complains, so those parts of the health curriculum aren't taught.
"It has been in place since 2003," Hale said. "I was just astounded that among all the things we don't have in West Virginia, we do have a health curriculum that includes sex education. I was impressed. It is something to be proud of."
Among other solutions, Kids Count recommends giving young people a credible vision of their future. This can happen with mentoring programs or after-school workshops where students learn about options such as community college or trade schools. In addition, parents need help to be good sex educators and to help their students learn how to reduce risky behavior, and communities need action plans to prevent teen pregnancy.
If West Virginia did those things, concentrated in Logan, Mercer, Calhoun, Fayette, Boone, Clay, Mingo and McDowell counties, the state might actually move up into a different category, and join its neighbors in a healthier color on the map.
Preventing teen pregnancy is about more than just keeping score against other states.
West Virginia has a troubling high school dropout rate. One in three girls who drop out cite pregnancy as the reason.
Children who are born to teen moms who have never married live in poverty 78 percent of the time.
Children born to teens are more likely to be born underweight. They are more likely to die within the first year of life. They are less likely to have the emotional and intellectual stimulation that research shows prepares them for school and success later on.
So not only do these unplanned pregnancies coming too early in life interfere with a teen mom's ability to get an education and be able to look after a thriving family some day, they also tend to give children a bad start in life.
And we all know where that ends up -- poor showing in school, underachievement, lack of gainful employment, and even poor health, with all the public expenditures that come with it.
Miller, the Gazette's editorial page editor, can be reached at d...@wvgazette.com.