Despite the education happening through high school health classes, the teenage birth rate in Jamestown and Dunkirk far surpasses the rate in New York state and Chautauqua County.
New York state's teen birth rate is 2.3 percent. In Chautauqua County, the birth rate exceeds the state average, at 3.6 percent - largely because the teen birth rate in Jamestown is 6.3 percent while the Dunkirk rate is 8.2 percent.
Recognizing a need within this area, the Jamestown Public Schools District, along with the YWCA, funds the TEAM program, which will be featured in Tuesday's edition of The Post-Journal. The program encourages education, employment and parenting skills, though Chautauqua Family Court Judge Judith Claire said she believes the program may not be enough to solve the issues in this area.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in a three-part series examining teen pregnancy.
Today, The Post-Journal examined sex education and the media’s impact on teen pregnancy.
"It is not the school district's problem to solve society's problems. But, no one else is going to step forward either and say, 'These kids need their high school diplomas.' What can we do about that?" Claire said.
Until there is an answer to that question, schools find themselves thrust into the gap.
In New York state, 42 percent of high school students have had sexual intercourse, according to recently released numbers from the 2009 New York Youth Risk Behavior survey. Nationwide, that number stretches to 46 percent.
Sunday: Five women reflect on their lives as teenage mothers; impact of teen motherhood on society.
Today: Health classes try to give teens the information they need; role of the media in glorifying teen pregnancy.
Tuesday: Jamestown's Teenage Education and Motherhood Program works with soon-to-be teen mothers and fathers.
Health education varies from state-to-state and often district-to-district. According to the 2010 New York School Health Profiles, 51 percent of New York state high schools required students to take two or more health education courses. And, 50 percent of New York state high schools had a lead health education teacher who received professional development on pregnancy prevention between 2008 and 2010.
HEALTH AND SEX EDUCATION
"Across the state, I believe it's only a half credit of health that you have to take, but in our school, it's a full credit. You're not really going to find other schools, I don't think, that offer a whole year of health," said Kim Roque, health coordinator at Dunkirk High School, which educates around 650 students daily throughout the school year.
Roque said her class covers issues such as disease, first aid, safety, violence, drugs, alcohol, family life, sexual health, choices, contraception, STDs and parenting.
"It's interesting, because with this group of kids, it doesn't seem to matter what you are talking about, it always comes back to sex. I'm really glad that I'm teaching at a school that embraces comprehensive sex education and allows contraception and condoms and that kind of stuff," Roque said.
Dunkirk High School is not alone. A 2010 New York School Health Profiles survey said 99 percent of New York state high schools taught students how to find health information, products, or services related to HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. While teens are taught where to find what they need, surveys show they may not be likely to use them. A 2009 New York Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed 32 percent of New York state high school students did not use a condom during the last time they had intercourse and 81 percent did not use birth control pills or the shot to prevent pregnancy.
"It would be difficult for me to teach at a school where we weren't allowed to talk about anything except abstinence. Certainly, it always is a part of every discussion, it always goes back to how that is the best choice because of all of the risks involved with STDs, and pregnancy and AIDs. It's not like we just skirt it," Roque said.
The percentage of schools discussing the benefits of being sexually abstinent has decreased slightly between 2008 and 2010, according to a 2010 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2008, 99 percent of New York students were being taught the benefits, while in 2010, 98.9 percent of students learned the benefits of abstinence. The same survey also indicates a slight decrease in students being taught to prevent HIV, other STDs and pregnancy. In 2008, 100 percent of the high schools surveyed taught prevention, while in 2010 the number dipped to 99.5 percent.
Despite the number of high school students not using a form of contraception, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey shows an increase in the percentage of public secondary schools teaching the importance of using condoms consistently and correctly. In 2008, 92.7 percent of schools were teaching this, while in 2010 the percentage rose to 94.1 percent.
The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States reported in 2010 that New York state received Personal Responsibility Education Program funds totaling $3,236,330. According to the council, it is the first-ever dedicated funding stream for comprehensive approaches to sexuality education. The grant is administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.
Additionally, a total of $2,991,440 was received by the state for Title V State Abstinence Education Programs. The program, which is also administered through the Administration for Children and Families, requires states to provide $3 state-raised dollars, or the equivalent in services, for every $4 received from the federal government. All programs funded by the program must promote abstinence from sexual activity as their exclusive purpose.
Private entities also received millions of dollars worth of funding in 2010. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative funds received by private entities totaled $7,708,963, while Personal Responsibility Education Innovative Strategies funds totaled $887,211 for private entities.
The New York State Department of Health received two of the private grants, while several New York City organizations including Planned Parenthood of New York City, Inc. and the New York City Mission Society received several of the other grants.
FILLING A GAP
With millions of dollars available from the state and federal governments, at least one prior teen mother who spoke to The Post-Journal has her own solution to preventing teen pregnancy.
Jennifer, whose own mother was 16 when she had her first child, is a second-generation teen parent. Trying to break the cycle, she has been sure to talk to all three of her sons about protection.
"I know that it does take (on) a pattern. I think that parents could change that. I was very open," she said. "I talked a lot to my boys about it. And, even if I would've had girls, I would have been very open. And, one of the things I would have done is put them on some kind of birth control pill.