Teenagers need sex education

By Andrea Edl

Judging by a recent occurrence in Oak Ridge, Tenn., high school students shouldn’t be allowed access to information about birth control methods.

According to a story on CNN.com, the Oak Leaf, Oak Ridge High School’s student newspaper, was seized by school officials last Tuesday after publication.

An article by Sandy Smith Madsen on the Tennessee Independent Media Center Web site said, “The article which explains birth control methods references a national survey, conducted in 2001, of high school students who were asked whether they were sexually active. Those national percentages were applied to ORHS students.”

The article also listed the success rates of different birth control methods and stated students could obtain most of them from their doctors or the local health department, according to CNN.com.

Because of this article and another that featured information about tattoos, Principal Becky Ervin “ordered a search and seizure,” according to the article. This ordeal is a disgrace to the First Amendment. While no laws were broken in this situation, it opposes the purpose of the First Amendment entirely.

By doing what she did, Ervin may just as well have made a ‘law’ restricting content in her school’s newspaper.

This is not the only reason why the seizure of this newspaper edition is unwise.

In January of this year, a Kaiser Family Foundation publication featured statistics on teen sexual activity. According to the publication, in 2003, 47 percent of high school students have had sex. Along those lines, the U.S. teen-pregnancy rate in 2000 was 84 in every 1,000, the teen abortion rate in 2000 was 25 out of 1,000 and about one out of every four sexually active teens contracts an STD every year.

These statistics could definitely be worse, but they can also be a lot better. According to the same publication, 48 percent of teens said they want more information from health providers about sexual health. If teens had more access to information about safer sex and birth control methods, the statistics mentioned above would more than likely drop.

The article about birth control methods in the Oak Leaf was a very smart choice. Teens need articles like it.

In an article on the Tennessee Independent Media Center Web site, Superintendent Tom Bailey said, “We have a responsibility to the public to do the right thing. We’ve got 14-year-olds that read the [student] newspaper.”

According to contraceptiononline.org, 32.8 percent of ninth graders have already had sex. In my opinion, this is a significant enough percentage to show the need for safer sex and birth control education at this level.

‘The right thing’ is to educate teens about safer sex and birth control methods earlier on so if they choose to have sex, they are able to minimize their risks. Wouldn’t one rather these teens be safe than sorry?

The article published in the Oak Leaf was doing ‘the right thing.’ The principal made a poor decision on behalf of her students. Teenagers have a right to access the sort of information in the Oak Leaf article.

If teens had more accessibility to this information, they would be able to make a more educated and a safer decision when approaching sexual activity, which is what teens in this country desperately need.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.