Just say no:Seventh-graders learn about sexual abstinence
By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
Nov. 21, 2002
The nurses who teach sexual abstinence to Meridian public school students like to show them slides of people with sexually transmitted diseases before the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks.
Maybe, they said, students will get the message.
The risks of STDs, including AIDS, is one of eight lessons all seventh-grade students receive as part of the school district's abstinence program called "Choosing the Best Path."
The abstinence classes meet twice a month during the school year. Four classes are devoted to STDs. Other topics include developing relationships and saying no to premarital sex.
Sikes said school nurses present the lessons in a professional manner and that the students are asked to approach the lessons with maturity.
State Department of Health statistics show that 8,624 girls statewide, ages 10 to 19, became pregnant in 2001 resulting in 7,536 births, 1,008 abortions and 80 fetal deaths.
The agency also said that Lauderdale County had 207 births to teen-age mothers last year. Nearby Newton County had 47, Clarke County had 46 and Kemper County had 25.
Robbie McKee, the school nurse at Oakland Heights Elementary, said those statistics get worse every year.
McKee said students get the abstinence message in school because not all parents are up to date with new information on STDs.
Marcia Russell, Carver Middle School nurse, said the problem is sometimes worse among the middle-class. She said middle- and higher-income parents tend to be more protective with sex information.
Russell said her experience with junior high students suggests otherwise.
She said the kids still think and wonder the same things and they will get the information from their friends information that may not be correct.
Getting the message
Lisa Silliman, teen pregnancy academic liaison in Meridian, said nine pregnant teens are enrolled in the district this semester.
Silliman works with both teen mothers and fathers. Last year, she said, she worked with more than 50 students.
Silliman said students respond best to visuals and real-life testimonials. She said that sometimes the message can be frightening.
Some students say they are getting the message.
The Meridian School District's seven nurses and one nurse coordinator are funded by a grant from the Riley Foundation.
The grant stipulates that nurses teach educational programs, so the nurses chose to teach abstinence education. The program is in its second year.