I wonder how many of them had sex illegally?
By Jill Monier
MEMPHIS - Frayser High School girls are carrying more than just backpacks these days, many are carrying babies. Now a new campaign is being launched to fight teen pregnancy in the Frayser area.
According to one group tracking the numbers, Frayser has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Memphis. The new campaign, called "No Baby!" is designed to try to get teen girls and boys to prevent pregnancies; at the same time, Memphis City School officials are working on a way to help students more effectively deal with unplanned pregnancies.
Henry Taylor holds up his balled up fist after we tell him how many girls at Frasyer High School are pregnant or have had a baby in the last year.
Taylor has a 15 year old daughter at Frayser High and she's on a tight leash.
According to a coalition helping to reduce the teen pregnancy rate in Memphis City Schools, 86 Frayser students are pregnant or have given birth in the last year.
Deborah Hester Harrison with Girls Inc., a non-profit group helping to promote confidence and self sufficiency among teens, says the entire Frayser area has a lot of pregnant teens.
Harrison says, "(zip code) 38127 has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the city, it's 26%."
That means, of the babies born to Frayser residents, 26% were born to Frayser teens.
Nationally the rate is 10%.
In Shelby County, it's 16%.
Harrison says, "We're looking at ways to combat it and we're trying to combat it in the area where the need is the greatest."
At Thursday night's school board meeting, Harrison announced a campaign aimed at reducing the teen pregnancy rate in Frayser.
The program, called "No Baby!" is designed to help girls gain the knowledge and resources needed to prevent unplanned pregnancies and to give them the confidence to just say "no".
Harrison says, "right now these girls don't know how to say no, they're having sex when they don't want to, they just don't know how to say no."
Another issue is pre-natal care.
According to one doctor we talked with there is no OB-GYN in the Frayser area.
Marc Goodman-Bryan with the Urban Child Institute says lack of pre-natal care can have serious affects on the baby.
He says babies born to teenage mothers alone, can face challenges.
Goodman-Bryan says, "As a group they're found to be more likely to be born at a low birth rate, born prematurely. A lot of these girls aren't developmentally ready to be really effective parents and that affects the child's development."
Memphis school officials say they don't track the number of pregnant students, but they say 245 students system wide were enrolled in their homebound program, which sends teachers to students' homes after they've given birth to make sure they don't fall behind in school.
MCS says they're ramping up their efforts to address teen pregnancy through a grant with Shelby County that will:
- put programs in place district wide to address pregnancy and infant mortality rates
- put nurse practitioners in schools
- hire 5 social workers
- provide a baby story with coupons for teens to buy car seats and diapers if they attend special programs
And it's not just teen girls.
Harrison says, Le Bonheur Children's Hospital got a grant to work with boys on the issue.
Harrison says, "up until now there really has not been programs focusing on the males."
But what many agree on, is the sex education starts at home.
Harrison says that can be difficult for parents. She says, "they don't know how to provide that info but it's also a very difficult subject for parents to have with their kids so it's tough."
But Taylor says parents must take responsibility.
Girls Inc. says once they prove the "No Baby!" program works in Frayser, they want to expand it to other areas of the city with high teen pregnancy rates, like zip code 38108 which is Hollywood East of Watkins, and zip codes 38126 and 38106 in South Memphis, which all have teen pregnancy rates above 25%.