10/10/04 — Teen Pregnancy Task Force forum planned

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Teen Pregnancy Task Force forum planned

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 10, 2004 2:08 AM

Organizers of a panel discussion on teen sexuality and pregnancy are hoping to alert elected officials about the problems faced in the community. And one says if legislating parent involvement were possible, that would be nice, too.

WATCH's Teen Pregnancy Task Force has planned the forum for Friday, Nov. 12, at Wayne Memorial Hospital from 7:30-9:30 a.m.

The problem is more than preventing teen pregnancies, though, task force members say. Support from parents is also essential.

Shirley Sims, a member of the Wayne County Board of Education and the task force, said that it is hard to make changes in this generation without backing from the parents.

"Nothing is mandated that parents have to do," she said. "I don't see how we're going to complete what we really have to do without someone having us enforce some laws or having parents show up to some meetings before the children can participate."

She said if lawmakers can make us wear a seatbelt, they should be able to make a parent come to school to look after their children.

Dena Whitley of the task force is also a social worker in Wayne County public schools.

She said, "You can legislate everything in the world but women having children and being a parent to that baby.

"You have a license to get married but you don't have to have a license to have a baby."

Ms. Sims said it would be helpful if legislators would become more aggressive for the cause.

"Until we tie in these requirements for public education, we're spinning our wheels," she said.

Sudie Davis of Communities in Schools and chairperson of the group, also leads the Teen Court program.

"One thing I wrote into that program is that parents had to be involved," she said. "And we still get some very reluctant parents."

Mrs. Davis said eight subjects will be discussed during the breakfast meeting. Covered will be domestic violence, gang violence, substance abuse, STD's and HIV, same-sex relationships, and statutory rape.

Gel bracelets, popular with young people, will also be discussed. The bracelets stand for "friends with benefits," with the different colors representing acts the person is willing to engage in with another person. The earlier physical maturation rate of youths today rounds out the topic list.

Mrs. Davis said 27 elected officials are being invited to the forum. School administrators, counselors, social workers and school nurses will also be in the audience.

The forum's theme will be "What's Going On? Feedback from the field." The goal, Mrs. Davis said, is to have honest dialogue about the problem facing the community.

"Young people have changed dramatically since the time that I was growing up," she said. "They are encountering issues at a much younger age than I did."

She said she hopes the forum will be a way to enlighten people to the many changes that have developed in recent years.

"It's a difficult world out there for our young people," she said. "What I would like to see occur out of this is more awareness of the challenges to our young people, more awareness of the risks that these children do not mind taking, and more awareness of things that our community needs to address."