High teen pregnancy rates in Texas attributed to lack of sexual

High teen pregnancy rates in Texas attributed to lack of sexual education

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

While the national teen birthrate has fallen to historic lows, Texas still has one of the highest in the country.

Nearly four percent of adolescent females in Texas between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant according to the Health and Human Services' Office of Adolescent Health. The state only trails Arkansas and Oklahoma. 

Dr. Sam Prien studies the correlation between the lack of sex education and the rise of STDs in Lubbock, Texas. He said it is vital to teach teens about their bodies and sex in order to lower number of teen pregnancies and STDs. 

"Everywhere we teach that knowledge is power," Dr. Prien said. "Somehow this is an area where that's not considered true and yet our bodies are considered the most sacred thing we have. We need to know how they work in order to protect ourselves and get people to where they want to be later in life."

Texas State professor of Health Education Dr. David Wiley said 82 percent of schools in Texas either teach abstinence or no longer teach sex ed at all.

"This whole notion that we need to do abstinence only, you can see the results in Texas," Dr. Wiley said. "We're always in the top five in the nation in teen births and in teen pregnancy. We're always above the national average in other sexual risk taking among youth. So this whole idea of, if we just don't talk about this stuff kids aren't going to learn about it is really not preparing anybody for the 21st century."

Wiley said while some parents try to keep their child from learning about sex, in the digital age it surrounds us everywhere.

"Chances are your child is walking around with a computer in his or her pocket, with an iPhone," he said. "They can access all the information they'd ever need from explicit, sexually graphic websites yet for some reason we think we don't need to address contraception in the classroom with a trained teacher who's a trusted adult."

While a number of parents insist it is their job to teach their child about sex, he said most cannot do it effectively.

"Most parents aren't trained to do this," he said. "Even the most well intentioned parent probably can't have a really good discussion with their child about the pros and cons of long acting reversal contraceptives."

Dr. Prien runs the program Teen Straight Talk. It not only teaches teens sexual education, it educates parents so they can have an informed conversation with their child.

"What we're trying to do is open a line of communication between parents and their teens to talk about the difficult issues including sex and STDs," Dr. Prien said. "We give them a lot of factual information in a very short period of time. It's about a two and a half hour program and the idea is not to be all comprehensive but to say here are the very base facts, now you go choose what's right for your family."

What is being taught in Lubbock schools though? 

Lubbock ISD communications director Nancy Sharp said it follows the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) which specifies the standards taught in Texas Schools. It requires the presentation of abstinence as the only 100 percent effective method for preventing pregnancy and the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases. It is taught in a two week unit in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades and is also taught in health classes in high school. 

Lubbock Cooper ISD also follows the TEKS but any instructional materials are reviewed and recommended by its Student Health Advisory Committee made up of parents. Deputy Superintendent Macy Satterwhite said the curriculum follows state standards.

"Abstinence is the only guaranteed way to avoid unwanted pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, but according to our state standards we also discuss different types of contraceptive devices," Satterwhite said. "That if any time parents are uncomfortable with the units of instruction that are being taught, they can voice those concerns to the school principal and they will be given an alternate assignment." 

Frenship ISD follows a similar system to approve their materials. Its curriculum titled "Worth the Wait" is taught when students are in the sixth grade and parents have the opportunity to view the materials. 

Sharp said the TEKs for sex ed are up for review by the state in 2018.

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