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Teenagers ask for more sex education.

Byline: Jim Boyd The Register-Guard

Parents may have difficulty talking to their children about sex, but a group of Eugene students didn't have any trouble Thursday night telling their parents how to improve that communication.

They asked for more sex education, both at home and at school, during a two-hour community town hall forum on teens and sex at the Eugene School District administration building. The event, which drew 113 teens and parents, was sponsored by E-SPEAK (Eugene Students and Parents Empowering All with Knowledge), a consortium of students, parents and community professionals organized by Planned Parenthood Health Services of Southwestern Oregon.

The students met for 45 minutes in a room separate from their parents and then had their report presented by Nick Coughlin, a sophomore at South Eugene High School; Stephanie Bellissimo, a freshman at Sheldon High School; and Dee Poindexter, a sophomore at Churchill High School.

Coughlin said the students agreed that kids are having sex as early as middle school; however, they have a different view of what constitutes sex than adults do. So when kids say they're not sexually active, he said, they may still be participating in certain types of sex. "Would it be safe to say that the rule of thumb is if you can't reproduce then it's not sex?" an adult asked from the audience and Coughlin agreed.

Poindexter said condoms should be made more readily available to young people. "We need to get across to the whole community that safe sex is better than not having safe sex," she said.

The students' recommendations pretty much mirrored the strategies that Mary Gossart, Planned Parenthood's education and training director, said have worked to keep the birth and abortion rates among teens lower in France, Germany and the Netherlands than in the United States. Gossart made her presentation to the parents while the students met by themselves.

Gossart said those strategies are: Comprehensive sexuality education for youth in schools. Parents and kids talking to one another about sex from the time kids are very young, and providing support for parents to be able to do that so they can share factual information and their personal values and beliefs. The availability of free or low-cost contraceptive services for those who need them. Mass media campaigns that stress messages about healthy and responsible sexuality. And public policy that backs up public health policies based on research.

The forum on teens and sex was the second of its kind. The first forum was in Springfield in April 2003 and drew 19 students and 30 adults. One of the recommendations was for parents to improve their communication skills, which resulted in a "Talking to Your Kids About Sex" workshop by the Willamalane Park and Recreation District last month.

The Eugene forum came 11 days before a meeting to review the HIV/AIDS/sexuality curricula recommended for Eugene School District grades 6 to 12, starting with the 2004-05 school year. Proposed materials are available for review at the district administration building, 200 N. Monroe St. The review meeting is 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. May 10 in the Charlotte Parr Room.
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Title Annotation:Schools; A community town hall forum on the topic draws 113 students and parents
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Apr 30, 2004
Words:524
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