Tahlequah Daily Press

October 3, 2013

Agencies strategize about teen pregnancy

By RENEE FITE
Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — During a town hall meeting to address teen pregnancy, area advocates brainstormed ways to reduce the numbers in Cherokee County.

Angie Lewandowski, with school-based social services, said until she got involved she wasn’t knowledgeable of this issue, and had no idea how teens feel “bullet-proof” when it comes to sex.

“I think most people feel that way,” she said. “But awareness of statistics shows the need [to address the issue.]”

Some schools in the region, including Tahlequah, provide some prevention education instruction, but not all parents are supportive, counselors said in the meeting. Concerns are that if the students know how to do it, they’ll be more inclined to want to do it.

Facts show students who have access to condoms will use them, but they’re not inclined to make the effort to get any form of birth control if it means their parents will find out. There is also less stigma attached to sex and pregnancy outside of marriage. And raging hormones are a challenge for anyone, especially teens, to control.

“Teenagers are hungry for knowledge and parents are afraid that if they know about sex they’ll experiment,” said Barbara Williams, certified prevention specialist with the Cherokee Nation, who has been teaching prevention education in area schools for 25 years.

After researching 30 programs, “Draw the Line, Respect the Line” was chosen.

“For sixth-graders the emphasis is on respecting others and boundary development,” said Terrell White, project director with the Cherokee Nation. “In seventh and eighth grade classes it’s about how to say no, about STD’s and role playing to learn how to stop situations and get out of them.”

Each class will last about 45, for two to three times a week for four weeks.

“Our intent is to ensure our youth have a healthy, happy positive lifestyle and that they’re able to achieve their goals,” White said. “One way to do that is to prevent teen pregnancy. We’re not teaching how to have sex or prevent it, we’re teaching adult preparedness topics, like how kids can talk to their parents and be proactive citizens.”