MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The study published Monday in The Journal of the American Medical Association looked a 17 cities coast to coast. analyzing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System which tracks sexual intercourse before age 13 along with another national survey.
Using data collected in 2011, 2013, and 2015, researchers found Memphis topped the list with one out of every four Memphis teens reporting they’d had sex by the age of 13.
“To have kids this young, this is pre-puberty age already having intercourse specifically, I think speaks to the need to really inform these kids about the risk of sex, the responsibilities of sex, and what the outcomes of sex are,” said Kent Fisher,
For the last 30 years, Fisher has helped clients battle drug and sex addictions. He says the troubling data highlights the need for more sex education.
Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi all require high school sex education classes be age-appropriate and stress abstinence. While classes may talk about contraceptives and STD prevention, there are limits.
Shelby County Schools rely on third-party health groups to teach students. The SCS Health, Physical Education and Lifetime Wellness (HPELW) Department teachers provide Family Life Education along with approved community partners for reinforcement and additional support. A 2012 Tennessee law allows parents to SUE instructors who stray from abstinence-centered lessons and judges can fine them $500.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey Coordinator for Shelby County Schools says the data used in the study doesn’t reflect current trends.
“The only data that they have available for united Shelby County Schools District is 2017 data And that data, like the national data, shows a decrease of sexual activity among teens,” said Carla Shirley.
In fact, the Shelby County Health Department says between 2013 and 2017 there’s been 50 percent decrease in youth reporting their first sexual encounter before age 13.
The district and health department attribute that drop to public awareness and education.