Lawmakers Tackle Teen Pregnancy

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A 13-year-old Jackson Public Schools student kisses her 30-year-old boyfriend as he drops her off at school one morning. When school officials call the teen's mother. She shows little concern saying, "He takes care of her, he helps her get the school supplies she needs."

A 12-year-old feels her baby move inside her for the first time and asks: "What I am feeling? I didn't think it would be alive until the doctor spanked it."

An 11-year-old student says she knows her 21-year-old boyfriend loves her because he said she looks good and bought her dinner at Popeye's.

As a long-time JPS educator, these are just a few of the examples of complex social issues Nancy Sylvester recalled yesterday during a joint legislative hearing on teen pregnancy at the state Capitol.

"These situations are occurring all across the state, as (they) have been for a number of years, and we are always asking, 'What do we do?,'" Sylvester told an audience of more than 50 lawmakers and citizens. "... The issues are deeper than children just wanting to be sexually active."

Sylvester, who initially advocated for abstinence-until-marriage education for the school district, says sex education needs to include information about contraceptives, but to be effective, it must also address social, emotional and mental-health issues of teens and families.

Mississippi Department of Health Officer Mary Currier also pushed for lawmakers to pass comprehensive sex-education legislation. Currier displayed data from a Department of Health survey showing 44.9 percent of Mississippi high-school students say they had sexual intercourse within the three months leading up to the survey. She recommended school districts implement programs that teach students refusal skills in nonsexual situations to sixth graders and the consequences of sex to seventh graders.

Currently, school districts are not required to teach sex education. Most follow the Mississippi Department of Education's Framework guidelines, which only teach abstinence-until-marriage and basic information about sexually transmitted diseases. School districts have the authority to adopt a sex-education policy, however, with school board approval.

Shane McNeill, director of MDE's Healthy Schools program, said only five districts in the state have sex-education policies and couldn't specify whether they required comprehensive education or abstinence-only education.

Abstinence-only advocates Larry McAdoo of Redemption Outreach Ministries and Dr. Freda Bush, local obstetrician and gynecologist, also attended the hearing and asked lawmakers to push for stronger abstinence-only until marriage policies. McAdoo pointed to a 2010 "Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine" study that found that abstinence-centered sex education is more effective than comprehensive sex education. The study followed teens who participated in an abstinence program for two years and found that 67 percent of teens did not have sex compared to 48 percent of students who did not get any sex education.

James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youths, a teen reproductive and sexual health organization, is among the many critics of the study. "There is no data in this study to support the 'abstain until marriage' programs, which research proved ineffective during the Bush administration," he told The Washington Post in February.

Still, advocates of abstinence-only programs along with some critics, hail the report as vindication for their point-of-view.

The Legislature has failed to pass sex-education bills in the past. Last year Reps. John Mayo, D-Clarksdale, and Alyce Clarke, D-Jackson, introduced House Bill 837 requiring that school districts implement either a "abstinence only" or an "abstinence plus" sex-education policy. The bill passed in the House, but died in the Senate Committee. Clarke has introduced a similar bill this year, and it currently waits for a vote in the House Education Committee.

Also see the JFP 2010 cover story "Kids Having Kids".

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Previous Comments

ID
161611
Comment

The first three paragraphs make one wonder what some parents are thinking. Do they just not care?

Author
bill_jackson
Date
2011-01-13T14:49:10-06:00
ID
161612
Comment

I am OUTRAGED! This is the worse crap I have hear in my life. What the heck do these law makers mean about sex education? A 12 year old kissing her boyfriend who is 30 years old should have been reported to DHS because the mother is a fool and is guilty of child neglect and also child endangerment. The JPD should have been called and an arrest made for rape! How did any of the members of the Legislature listen to these stories and decide that what is needed is sex education. I agree that our kids need to be educated on "the baby won't move until the doctor spanks it". The Eleven Year Old (11) is dealing with a 29 year old and believes he loves her because "he bought her dinner at Popey's. I will bet my neck that all of these stories are reports about black girls. The meeting should have errupted in anger and the whole group should have been on the steps of DHS. I am trying to wake my body us because I know that these are not the reactions for any sane member of the Legislature to this type of blatant criminal activity! I know that I didn't just read what I read! It is true that school districts are not required to teach sex educaton, but, they sure as hell are required to report cases of sexual abuse and child neglect. PS. Forget "abstaining until marriage" what about abstaining until the body and mind are capable of dealing with sexual actvty and Slam it, it's not the age of 11 with a mate of 30. I am OUTRAGED!

Author
justjess
Date
2011-01-13T15:10:52-06:00
ID
161613
Comment

Justjess- I'm not sure what the next course of action JPS took on those matters. They may have reported it to DHS. Sylvester did not elaborate further.

Author
Lacey McLaughlin
Date
2011-01-13T15:30:29-06:00
ID
161616
Comment

I'm with JustJess. In fact, I'll go one step further. These men aren't boyfriends; they're pedophiles--sexually attracted to very young children. THe pregnancy is ipso facto evidence of statutory rape. Every one of these men should be up on child molestation charges--and certainly shouldn't be dropping their victims off at school. It's one thing if we're talking about teenagers having sex with each other--they need all the sex education they can get. But these stories are about predators on children-it shouldn't even be discussed as "teen sex."

Author
JDLW
Date
2011-01-13T15:46:27-06:00
ID
161618
Comment

Surprisingly, not a damn one of those stories sounds out of the norm to me for the kids that I see. 80% of the girls I've worked with in the past year that were 12-17 have had an incidence of chlamydia or gonorrhea (so many that I learned how to spell them damn words) in the 90 days previous to getting into our program. NONE of them understood that if they got treated but their boyfriend did not, they would once again catch the STD. It is AMAZING the things that our girls do not know about their bodies and the sexual development process (as well as pregnancy). I've been screaming that for years. Also, I think Dr. Bush is off her rocker.

Author
Lori G
Date
2011-01-13T16:13:28-06:00
ID
161622
Comment

I support full education on all matters of biology - both STDs and pregnancy prevention, and sooner rather than later.

Author
Izzy
Date
2011-01-13T16:30:33-06:00

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