By Kendal Phillips and Sarah Garner -
Jordynea Hill gets up at the crack of dawn every morning to have bottles and diapers ready for her newborn son. She’ll need at least 12 diapers for just one day of changing and enough formula to fill his daily needs. Hill is a Penn Manor High School senior who can no longer walk the halls during regular school hours, can’t go to any sporting events and can’t eat lunch with her friends in the school cafeteria. Hill, 17, attends Twilight (evening) school so she can take better care of her four-month-old son.
She’d be the first to say how difficult it is to be a teenage mom.
“Wait as long as you can, till you think you can take care of a kid,” Hill said to teens having unprotected sex.
Unfortunately teens across the country don’t seem to be following the advice that Hill and many other teenage parents are giving.
A national study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit group that studies reproductive and sexual health, showed that the rate in teen pregnancy, that had been on the decline since the 1990’s, is now rising.
The popular teen show “16 and Pregnant” and its follow-up show, “Teen Mom,” are examples of how difficult it is to be a parent at such a young age. Even though the shows are among some of the most watched, many teens just don’t seem to be taking the consequences seriously.
Lashaya Baker, a Penn Manor senior, agrees that teens sometimes rush into sex without thinking of the consequences.
“Yes, they’re doing it because everyone else is doing it,” she said,
Baker herself is six months pregnant.
In a recent survey at Penn Manor, some students said they were not certain they would always use contraception if they planned to have sex.
Randomly, 42 students were asked to take an anonymous survey about their attitudes toward unprotected sex. These students included all grades and both boys and girls. About three-quarters of the students surveyed claimed they were sexually active.
Although only less than one percent of the population was questioned, the survey results indicated some students were not concerned with the consequences of unprotected sex. Out of 42 students, only half said they were using some sort of contraceptives every time they have sex, if they were currently sexually active.
The students that weren’t sexually active were asked whether or not they would use contraceptives every time in the future. Not all said they would.
“The issue here is clearly that we have a lot of teenagers who are having sex, but they aren’t careful enough at contraception to avoid pregnancy,” said Sarah Brown, executive director of the nonprofit National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy during a recent interview with New York Times.
In the same survey, five out of five senior boys who were surveyed admitted to being sexually active, compared to two out of five freshman boys. Five out of five senior girls said they were sexually active, with four out of five on birth control. Three out of five freshman girls said they are sexually active, but out of those five, none said they were using any type of birth control.
When teen girls were asked whether they would have sex without a condom which can protect from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, their responses were revealing.
“Yeah, ‘cause I’m on birth control,” said a Penn Manor junior, “If you’re in the heat of the moment it’s just going to happen, you’re not just going to say stop.”
That was a similar story repeated by those in the survey – that teens often decided to have sex without any planning.
That story changed when reality hit for Brittany Scott a pregnant teen at Penn Manor.
“Now I’d probably say ‘no,’ because it’s not worth the risk,” said Scott now 21 weeks pregnant.
Out of the 21 boys that were surveyed, only 13 said that they currently use or would use protection every time they have sex and only 9 out of the 21 girls that were surveyed are on birth control.
Also, some adults in the high school were asked their views on the availability or effectiveness of sex education in school. Currently, all students in high school take a health class where reproduction is discussed but birth control methods are not.
Some felt that schools should not be focusing on just abstinence or prevention, but showing the positives and negatives of both.
“I think if it’s abstinence based, you’re dumb to think they’re not doing it so they should be taught how to be safe,” said Penn Manor health teacher, Stephen Weidner.
“Both, you should have to educate the students with information of sex and abstinence,” said Principal Phil Gale, “It isn’t only a school thing, it’s a parent and school responsibility.”
Teenage students were asked their feelings on whether or not they think people rush into sex without knowing the possible outcomes.
“I think everyone acknowledges what could happen, but I don’t think they use [their knowledge],” said junior Stef Freidman.
“Wish it came later,” said Coulter, of her three-month-old son, “People always tell you how hard it will be but you don’t know how hard it will be till it happens. It’s not cool to have a baby until you’re ready.”
“Yeah, even though we learn stuff in health class, people just don’t think before they do things,” said Scott who is expecting her baby this summer.
Paul Chismar, Penn Manor earth science teacher, agreed, “Absolutely, they’re not prepared for the consequences.”
“They think ‘it won’t happen to me’” said Cindy Bachman, athletic director secretary and cheerleading coach.
Unfortunately, it can.
Also see related story: “Hush little baby.”