At Frayser High School in Memphis, 90 girls are pregnant or have had a baby this school year, nearly 20 percent of the school's female population. Now of course, reporters are scrambling to blame Teen Mom and "pregnancy pacts."
This week local station WMC-TV reported on the situation and interviewed 16-year-old Terrika Sutton, a student who recently gave birth.
Nationally the teen pregnancy rate dropped to 39.1 births per 1,000 teens in 2009, but My Fox Memphis reports the teen pregnancy rate in Frayser High's zip code is the highest in the city at 26%.
So why is this school's pregnancy rate more than twice the national average? The Daily Fail notes, "MTV reality shows like Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant have come under fire for normalising teenage parenthood." Hmm... but those shows air all across America. Here's an idea: A pregnancy pact! It says in the article accompanying WMC-TV's report, "Sutton said she believes some girls are making agreements with each other to get pregnant." However, it's clear from the clip that the reporter suggested the idea of a "pregnancy pact" to Sutton, and she responded with a non-committal "there probably is," and, "no telling." (Plus, it's been revealed that the original Gloucester, Massachusetts pregnancy pact was a media creation.)
In reality, the most likely explanation is far less scintillating. While nationally efforts to curb teen pregnancy are working, there are still many areas where teens don't get adequate sex education at home or at school. According to a follow-up report from WMC-TV, schools in Tennessee are required to teach "Family Life Education." In Memphis City Schools the curriculum, which puts an "emphasis on abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage," is taught to ninth graders for several weeks.
Administrators have acted quickly to address the problem at Frayser High by rolling out a new program called "No Baby!" this week. Deborah Hester Harrison of the non-profit group Girls Inc. said of the new program,
The whole point of that is to teach them to say no. That's the reason this is "No Baby." No. We're not going to have babies. No, we're not going to have sex. Or at least we're going to be protected if we're going to do something. So that's really our purpose, is to teach these girls how to say no. They don't know how.
It's encouraging that Harrison at least mentioned using protection, but much like the existing sex education curriculum, "No Baby" will emphasize abstinence. Obviously, it's important to teach girls (and boys) to respect themselves and have the confidence to say "no." However, it seems like the new program may just be more of the same, and clearly this approach isn't doing much to help young women at Frayser High make smart choices about sex.
MCS Board Working To Deal With Pregnancies At Frayser High School
MCS, Memphis Groups Address Teen Pregnancy [My Fox Memphis]
'Teen Mom Epidemic': NINETY Teenage Girls Pregnant At One High School [Daily Mail]
"No Baby" Program Looks to Fight Teen Pregnancy [WREG]