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Saturday, January 15, 2011

90 Girls Pregnant at Memphis Middle/High School

What in the world is going on at Frayser Middle/High School in Memphis, Tenn.? More girls are carrying babies than backpacks!

There are a reported 90 teens who are pregnant now or who have had a baby this school year. Eleven percent of the school's female population is already in the throes of parenthood.

Now an all-out campaign is being launched to deter teen pregnancy at the school.

Teen pregnancy is a big problem in Memphis and Shelby County, where the population is predominantly black and poor.

Sixteen-year-old Terrika Sutton (pictured above) is one of the Frayser students who became pregnant. Sutton, who has a 2-month-old daughter, says she was in her fifth month when she found out she was expecting a child. The teen mom surprised her parents and classmates alike when she broke the news to them about her situation:

"They were like, 'Terrika, I never knew you would get pregnant,' and I was like well it happened."

The young mother goes onto say, though, that teen pregnancy is nothing to be proud of and that something should be done:

"It's a shame that all these girls at Frayser are pregnant, but it ain't nothing new. They probably planned on what they gonna do to get pregnant. Ain't no telling. They need a class where they can teach girls before they get pregnant to use protection and stuff and so they don't try to get pregnant."

Until now, there has been very little data collected on the number of pregnant students.

Last year, more than 2,100 girls ages 10 to 19 gave birth in Shelby County. Researchers say Shelby County's teen pregnancy rate is 25 percent higher than New Orleans and twice that of Louisville, Ky. Frayser, though, has the highest teen-pregnancy rate in all of Memphis.

A Title 1 school, Frayser receives federal dollars based on the number of students from low-income families who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Nearly 100 percent of the students who attend the school qualify.
Educators and researchers have come up with a new campaign that has been designed to help teens prevent pregnancy called "No Baby!"

Memphis City School officials will set the initiative in motion on Jan. 20. The campaign will be run by Girls Inc., an organization that's been helping girls in Memphis improve their self-esteem for the past several decades.
The "No Baby!" all-out massive effort to stomp out teen pregnancy will hopefully get the message across to teens to say no to having sex and having babies. "No Baby!" will only encourage abstinence and not provide contraceptives but will give teens the proper tools on how to protect themselves should they decide to engage in sexual relations.

The war against teenage pregnancy is also being infused with $250,000 in advertising that will saturate all forms of social media forums such as Twitter and Facebook, as well as using other mediums, such as texts, radio, billboards and television.
The advertising campaign's rollout will begin with Frayser, but it will expand to include other schools in Memphis where the teen pregnancy problem is rampant. In 10 Memphis zip codes, at least 20 percent of teens have a baby, which is more than double the national average.
Teen pregnancy is a serious issue that demands our attention.

Teen parents are almost always unprepared for the challenges of parenthood and often drop out of school, take low-paying jobs and never complete their education. Children born to teen moms are often sicker, poorer and less educated as a group.

The scariest part of all is that they are also the group most likely to become teen parents and repeat the cycle. I don't profess to come up with any one solution to this growing problem, but I believe that morals, contraception, abstinence and keeping idle minds busy with activities after school might be a darn good start.

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