Student pushes for new tool to prevent teen pregnancy

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A local 14-year-old high school student spent the week speaking out to local leaders in an effort to reduce teen pregnancy. Joseph Benton attends the Early College High school and decided to take what started as a school project one step further.

Benton spoke at the Horry County School Board Meeting Monday and the Horry County Council Meeting Tuesday. He produced a speech explaining why teen pregnancy is a prevalent issue in Horry County.  Benton said his intentions are to first get the approval of the school board to move forward with implementing a program that would use simulation babies to teach high school students the importance and maturity that's need to care for a child. Benton said he hopes to get the program launched at his school, then he'll plan to try and get it implemented at other local schools.

"We want to start as the guinea pig and then spread it through slowly," Benton said.

Benton said he realized how important preventing teen pregnancy was, once the issue was discussed amongst his fellow classmates.

"Whenever we got into the subject, the girls really started to talk about how they know a lot of the men leave," Benton said.

According to the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the number of teen girls who gave birth dropped 38% from 2000 to 2010. But, Benton said he feels the issue is still prevalent and the type of education needs to be modified.

"It is, how would you say? They preach abstinence. So that's more as we're seeing, it's ineffective," Benton said.

Benton said the simulation babies would need attention very similar to the attention "real" babies need, which would show high school students the reality that comes with having a baby.

"You still preach abstinence, but why not preach it through a baby- which will show 'hey this is tough there are consequences that if you do do adult behavior at a young age, this is what'll happen,'" Benton said.

Benton said both the school board and the county council members applauded his efforts, but at this time no official decisions have been made to change any educational programs. Benton said he needs $12,000 to purchase 12 babies for his class. He said he'll start fundraising in an effort to raise the money.