Article Comment 

Scott Colom: Fighting teen pregnancy


Scott Colom



Recently, both houses of the Mississippi legislature passed bills requiring school districts to either teach abstinence-only sex education or abstinence-plus. Abstinence-plus would allow school districts to discuss the use of contraceptives as well as teach about the importance of abstinence.  


Teaching students about contraceptives has long been controversial in Mississippi. Supporters of abstinence-only argue that teaching about contraceptives increases the likelihood that teenagers will have sex and that parents, not schools, should be responsible for teaching teenagers about such an intimate topic.   


Supporters of comprehensive sex education claim that most teenagers will have sex and there''s not much schools, churches, or parents can do to stop this reality. They argue that schools need to therefore promote the use of contraceptives to stop the high teen pregnancy rate in Mississippi.  


Both of these arguments miss an essential point - there has to be a renewed focus on the sexually promiscuous culture created by the media. The best parents (I know - I had some good ones) or teachers or preachers in the world can''t compete with television shows, music, and movies geared towards teenagers that make sex appear like a casual decision with no consequences.    


Perhaps the best example of this is the MTV show, "Jersey Shore." This record- breaking reality show is about several young Italian Americans living together in New Jersey and Miami. The show consist mostly of the housemates having sex with each other and/or random people, fights, and petty arguments.     


Of course, as is the case with most reality television, nothing is in fact real. All the housemates were selected by MTV. Everything that happens is encouraged by television producers and edited for television. It''s reality as MTV creates it. 


The most damaging aspect of MTV''s reality is the promotion of sexual promiscuity. In every episode, sometimes twice an episode, the roommates go to a nightclub and casually have one-night stands.    


This happens night after night with no consequences for the cast-mates. There are no pregnancy scares, no concern about the cost of raising children, no childbearing cost for the taxpayer, and, certainly, no thoughts of abstinence.   


Of course, in reality, there are consequences for casual, promiscuous sexual behavior, especially for teenagers, and these consequences have plagued Mississippi for decades. Mississippi has long had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country.  


For instance, in 2008, the Center for Disease Control reported that Mississippi had 60 percent more teens giving birth than the national average, a rate of 65.7 per 1,000 teenagers. Studies estimate this teen pregnancy rate cost Mississippi taxpayers $135 million a year.  


These statistics are depressing, and they have been so for much too long. To stop this trend, we must accept that the status quo is unacceptable. We should not go another decade with such high rates of teen pregnancy without at least trying a new approach. Blaming the parents and hoping kids will practice abstinence has not worked.  


On the other hand, I don''t believe conventional comprehensive sex education is likely to make much of a difference. Most high school students (I was one not that long ago) know about contraceptives and can figure out how to use them. The problem is many don''t take the consequences of having sex seriously. Accordingly, many students are likely to spend as much time laughing and giggling at a teacher talking about condoms as they do paying attention.   


Therefore, we need an innovative approach. We need to first set specific, measurable goals to lower the teen pregnancy rate; and, if an idea isn''t working, we must hold the programs accountable and stop wasting money and resources on it. We then need an approach that addresses the culture that pretends sex has no consequences.  


We need programs where teen parents talk to their peers in small groups about the reality of being a parent, about the diapers and the crying and the child support. We need summits where role models explain the benefits of delayed sexual gratification. We need to facilitate focus groups where teenagers talk to each other about the influences of shows like "Jersey Shore" and the reality of promiscuity. We need Facebook post and youtube videos about waiting to have sex. In short, we need to change the culture.  


Scott Colom is a local attorney. His e-mail address is [email protected]


Scott Colom is a local attorney.


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Reader Comments

Article Comment kat commented at 3/9/2011 1:04:00 PM:

Mr Colom,
I hear you loud and clear and you and I agree on some important facts. Yes, we need to teach something different than what is being taught now because we have hard facts that what we are currently doing DOES NOT WORK! Our children ( and they are STILL children) have to be taught consequences-something they never see on TV or in reality. In today's society is is "OK" to be a "baby's momma"or to just let your parents raise the child your brought into this world.That cannot continue. We the taxpayers pay the ransom on that mentality. Men have to be held responsible for the children they produce and if the women can't take care , or continue to birth out babies, then they should receive NO federal or state aid.
Now,.... we haven't even touched on sexually transmitted disease and how much that cost the taxpaying public! The schools should at least have the opportunity to offer-as an elective- a comprehensive sex ed course. Parents (for the most part) are NOT doing their job. Argue if you want - but if the children were learning at HOME , this would NOT be a problem.


Article Comment fil-col commented at 3/9/2011 3:41:00 PM:

Great Article!

1-The problem with the "home" solution is the fact that parents can only train THEIR children. Little Johnny across town can't have sex by himself, thus leaving the logical difference of Johnny's lack of home training and the other kid's superb home training. This is where community, school, church, etc should fill the gap, leaving less room for error.

2- Schools and community organizations should not be concerned with "teaching" and focus more on "providing" - providing modern day alternatives and solutions to teens emotional and recreational needs. Science should prove that sex is not a physical need during the teen years.

3- Families and schools should try educating teenagers on the value of self-respect and quality relationships. Although this has always been a part of sex education, it is even more necessary today with the extreme and impersonal use of cell phones and networking sites.

4-Consequence-based education is a COMPLETE waste of time and funding.


Article Comment walter commented at 3/9/2011 11:59:00 PM:

To produce the necessary and urgent change, there must be a dramatic change in the mentality of those who represent the state. Since it has been established beyond doubt that elected-officials are incapable of changing, to produce the desired change will require that Mississippians elect a totally new type of leadership. Leaders who grasp the gravity of the situation regarding teen pregnancy and a host of other problems that beg for a 21st Century attitude and approach. Lookking back and thinking inside the box have kept us behind and boxed-in. Young people must seize the mantle of government and move ole farts aside and into their rocking chairs. If not, the radical new ideas that must be tried will never see the light of day...

The problem is that far too many of those in power see not only teenagers as being chuildren and incapable of independent thoughts, they still see most adults, particularly African Americans-who, incidentally have a higher percentage of teenage pregnancy-as still being children. They (those in power) are the only ones who know what is best. Thus, they refuse to even entertain innovative approached to solving pressing problems that, unless addressed, and addressed soon, are going to sink us...

It is really great to have the opportunity to read in my own hometown's newspaper, articles and columns by some truly gifted writers. It gives me tremendous hope for tomorrow, whether I survive to witness it or not. That the way to go CDN. Release the suppressed talent that has been stifled for much too long now in Columbus and all over Mississippi. The state needs it and it needs it now, like never before!


Article Comment kj commented at 3/10/2011 10:03:00 AM:

"This happens night after night with no consequences for the cast-mates. There are no pregnancy scares..."

Perhaps because, as stupid as the cast of Jersey Shore is, they've been well-informed about the use of contraceptives.

"We need programs where teen parents talk to their peers in small groups about the reality of being a parent, about the diapers and the crying and the child support."

MTV produces these shows, too.

The consequences of abstinence-only education are, in reality, the consequences of denying knowledge. All of the proposed solutions that you've offered are knowledge-centric: give kids knowledge and let them apply it. Some will fail, of course, but many less than otherwise.


Article Comment gogetum commented at 3/10/2011 10:20:00 AM:

walter -it's a mindset like yours that keeps the so called single parent birth rate high in the black community. I say "so called" because the fact is , it usually requires a couple to make a child. So wouldn't you say that in the majority of conceptions today there are actually two parents of each child? Why is it that they aren't married and why is it that 90 percent of blacks born today are abandoned by the male parent? Then it's left up to the female to raise the child the best way she can. Usually done with help from the state and faithful grand or great grand parents. How can you think that we would be much better with "todays" young people in elected positions after reading the previous sentences? The leader has not been born yet that can stop a young buck from doing his thing in the back seat of that old buick and the thought of "responsibility" for raising a child is no where to be found in either of their minds. The only fool proof way to solve the problem is to tie tubes and vesectomys after the first child before marriage. I'm sure you agree with that, walter.
And walter, if your only hope for tomorrow comes from reading the dispatch , you're worse off than the hope character who post liberal comments on this web site who is referred to by frank as "hopeless".


Article Comment fil-col commented at 3/10/2011 12:53:00 PM:

Mindset? Funny you should use that word. Because certain mindsets are the great problem. If we live in "today", why shouldn't our leader be from "today"? Tube tying and Vasectomeys are to yesterday what Plan B contraception, abortion, and abandonment are to today. Some people need to take a nap and wake up in 2011.


Article Comment newsjunkie commented at 3/10/2011 9:31:00 PM:

Tube tying and vasectomies might seem like Plan B, but they are cheaper than pregnancies and children that the taxpayers support financially from pre-natal to prison. Give kids the education about being responsible, and give them the opportunity to prove they can be. If this doesn't work, Plan B can be pretty effective. Fil-Col talking about "yesterday" like it was a bad thing-teen pregnancy was taboo socially then, and it was therefore less prevalent.


Article Comment fil-col commented at 3/10/2011 9:48:00 PM:

Newsjunkie, Plan B is an actual over the counter morning after pill. And I never mentioned "yesterday". I was talking about TODAY and how to meet the needs of TODAY.


Article Comment fil-col commented at 3/10/2011 9:52:00 PM:

Should have said "never mentioned yesterday as if it were a bad thing".


Article Comment walter commented at 3/11/2011 12:21:00 AM:

Gogetum, gogetf----d! All young African Americans and all young Caucasian Americans aren't snared by teenage pregnancy. Hopefully, those who aren't can make a trmendous contribution toward helping their peers avoid the dilemma, since they were able to do so.

One thing is for certain, the solutions suggested by those in power today to curtail teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, vioence, and yes, bullying, have proven to be no solution at all. Yet, ole farts insist upon doing the same ole things and expecting different results. I believe the young, since they will have to live with the circumstanceds a lot longer than ole farts, who will soon be dead, can bring the one thing to the table that is needed to solve all of the aforementioned problems/issues. And, that is honesty/integrity. A willingness to accept that people are individuals and that it is not necessary for everyone to march in lockstep and to the beat of drummers beholding to to some fart with money and power.

One thing is for sure, the young certainly can't do any worse. I say give them a chance. They have a lot more at stake. Their future is deeper and broader than the stale, visionless, ujnscrupulous individuals who pretend to represent us now.

Yes, Gogetum, having had the honor of teching many of them, I do trust the young. And, again, gogetf.....


Article Comment melody commented at 3/11/2011 8:35:00 AM:

There you go again walter-- Proving gogetums "mindset" point. Don't you know that some of the youth actually know how to read and can see all your use of profanity--no excuse walter. Your mindset to blame the republican leadership for babies born out of wedlock is part of the problem, gogetum was right. You have a young president in office right now, are you saying we need someone younger? He wasn't qualified enough to be president so you want someone younger and even less qualified? Doesn't add up walter. You blamed Bush for everything for 8 years so now you are letting Obama slide and now pointing fingers at our state level, pitiful. It's not the fault of elected officials that pregnancy occures outside of marriage. Put the blame where it belongs walter and fess up when you are proven to be wrong. You are on this issue. Now when it comes to abortion , elected officials do carry some of the blame. Obama and the other liberal dem leaders seem to be ok with abortion so why are't you screaming about that?


Article Comment happy commented at 3/11/2011 12:59:00 PM:



Article Comment walter commented at 3/11/2011 8:55:00 PM:

Again, Melody, I trust the young and I respect them enough to be honest with them. Nothing I wrote or stated is foreign to their ears. They're not virgins, as far as the world is concerned and they can discern when a word of profanity is alluded to, though not actually stated. More importantly, they can appreciate the fact that sometimes it is well-placed and justified.

Now, if it is all the same go -------- yourself.


Article Comment hope commented at 3/11/2011 9:48:00 PM:

@gogetum---Now Mama Grissly wouldn't like you talking to Bristol like that.


Article Comment newsjunkie commented at 3/12/2011 10:13:00 PM:

Fil Col, sorry I did not catch the reference to Plan B as the day after pill. I was thinking Plan B as in the second choice. Happy, I am glad things turned out well for your son. You were fortunate that you had help. It just seems that most teens who have one baby with government assistance go on to have more that way. If you developed the skills to get past that way of life, I hope you will teach other our youth how to do the same.


Article Comment hope commented at 3/13/2011 11:54:00 AM:

@melody-----The President we have now is not qualfied. For sure, he has had a monumental task, after the disaster left by Bush and the Republicans, leaving him with two (2) wars and a depression. Even Huckabee admitted it would be tough by saying whoever was elected President, it would be the first time a recount was asked for.
As for abortion, some people are O.K. with it and some people are not. I think must people would agree, in America, we shouldn't let anyone die because they couldn't afford healthcare.


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