Sex Ed should be taught before middle school, local group says - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Sex Ed should be taught before middle school, local group advocates

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MEMPHIS, TN -

By Ursula Madden - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Ninety girls at Frayser High School in Memphis are pregnant or have given birth this school year, and one Mid-South organization to believe that a lack of sex education could be partially to blame for the crisis.

16-year old 'Terrika,' a student at Frayser High School, does not regret having a child, but wishes school had offered a broader pregnancy prevention program.

"They need a class where they can teach the girls before they get pregnant to use protection and stuff, and don't try to get pregnant," Terrika said in a recent interview.

Tennessee law requires schools to teach "Family Life Education."  In Memphis City Schools, this curriculum is taught to students in the ninth grade for several weeks each year.

According to the Department of Education, Family Life Education puts an "emphasis on abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage."

Jennifer Warren, a health education with Planned Parenthood, believes abstinence education is a good start, but adds parents need to start having a conversation about sex before their children reach middle school.

"They think if I'm going to talk about sex, that means that I'm giving you the liberty and the freedom for you to go ahead and do it, but that's not the case," Warren said. "Kids have questions, and they need to be answered at an appropriate age and appropriate time. So if they start the conversation early, it's not as painful later on."

Planned Parenthood CEO Barry Chase believes schools should adopt a sex education curriculum that includes students, their parents and a highly qualified instructor.

"It should be age appropriate," Chase said. "It should start in kindergarten and be every year through the 12th grade. And if we skip any of those years, we take a risk we shouldn't have."

But Memphis City Schools board member Stephanie Gatewood says implementing sex education curriculum is complicated.

"If we do teach sex ed, we need to do it a whole lot sooner than 14, 15, 16," Gatewood said. "So the question then becomes, when do you do it?"

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Statistics from the Tennessee Department of Health show teen pregnancy trends in recent years.

In 2005, there were 2,270 babies born to teen mothers in Shelby County. That number dipped a bit the next year, but reached a five-year high in 2007.  In 2009, there was a large drop - more than six percent.

Statewide, less than six percent of teen girls were pregnant in 2009.  In Shelby County, that number was a bit higher, at seven percent.  But at Frayser High this school year, the number was 20 percent.

Though experts say teen pregnancy rates are on the decline across the country, it's still a large problem in Southern states, and here in the Mid-South.

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