Teens need schools, parents and faith groups working together on sex education

The children of Dallas County need help when it comes to their sexual and reproductive health.

Forty percent of high school students report that they are sexually active, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nine teens give birth in Dallas County every day, according to the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, and three ZIP codes in Dallas have 5 times the national teen birth rate.

Further, rates of HIV have risen 37 percent in Dallas County, and chlamydia rose 15 percent from 2007 to 2016, according to Dallas County Health and Human Services. In 2017, 61 percent of chlamydia diagnoses were in people younger than 25 years of age.

If you don’t believe these statistics, sit outside a Dallas ISD high school and look at the bellies of the girls entering and exiting. Or ask a school nurse about the students she sees who are pregnant, have sexually transmitted infections, or experience sex-related trauma.

As Cimajie Best, director of youth curriculum at Café Momentum, said at a recent DISD board meeting: “Three houses have epically failed our children in the area of reproductive health. The first is the church house. We have one on every corner in Dallas, yet Dallas has the highest rate of repeat teen pregnancy in the country. The second is the parent’s house. The church says ‘don’t do it,’ and the parents say ‘don’t talk about it.’ And the third is the schoolhouse.”

Best calls herself a “pew baby,” someone who grew up in her church. She attended DISD schools, but she was left to learn how to describe and take care of her body on her own. As a child who was sexually abused, she did not know how to identify her own body parts or those of her abuser.

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