City, county leaders say teen pregnancy issue affecting area - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

City, county leaders say teen pregnancy issue affecting entire area

By Jamel Major - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City and Shelby County leaders said Tuesday that teen pregnancies are not just a Frayser problem, but one that impact the entire area.

Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said he plans to aggressively attack the teen pregnancy problem.

Cash said the numbers reported about teen pregnancies at Frayser High School are wrong.

"There are not 90 children who are pregnant at Frayser High School," said Cash.

Sources told Action News 5 that 90 girls at the school were either pregnant or have had a child within the past year.

"There were 75 last year, so there could be 90 this year," said Cash.  "Particularly with new entrances or new people coming in to be part of the program.

Cash referred to the Frayser Preparatory Academy.  Roughly 30 to 35 girls reportedly transferred into the program a year ago from other schools in the Memphis City School district.  The program gives teens with babies a second chance by providing them with housing and care so they can be prepared to graduate.

"It's really like a magnet program for science, for the arts, for that kind of thing," said Cash, "in that mothers and families are choosing Frayser because of the support they get for that program."

Cash said it is a situation that has thrust Frayser High School in the national spotlight.

"The girls right now are feeling really bad about Frayser High School," said Cash.  "You need to know how bad they're feeling right now.  And they're feeling exploited about this issue here."

Cash said while city and county leaders will push for new efforts and a campaign targeting teen pregnancies, the issue affects the entire city.

Memphis Mayor A C Wharton said the city will be introducing a new plan to deal with the crisis.

"We want to make sure that whatever we do is targeted," said Wharton.  "That it meets a need that is not being met and it's proven to be effective.  That's exactly what we're going to do."

Memphis City Schools is currently working with the Shelby County Office of Children and Youth on a grant that will be implemented in the spring.  The goal is to educate teens about child development and reduce infant mortality.

"These are not statistics," said Wharton.  "These are people and tragically, most vulnerable people in many instances.  We want to focus on that."

This week, Girls, Inc. will debut a massive media and educational campaign called "No Baby!"  The program will be aimed at giving girls the tools they need to resist pressure to have sex.

"We also plan to have at least two after-school sites where girls can have a place to come after school," said Deborah Hester with Girls, Inc.

According to Memphis City Schools, a program called "Young Women's Summit" has also been in place at Frayser High School for about three years now.  The specialized program for young girls also addresses issues related to teen pregnancy.

"What we try to do with the girls in school is say love yourself, forgive yourself, educate yourself," said Cash.  "Education is your ticket out for you and your baby."

Girls, Inc. also said it will team up with LeBonheur Hospital for a pregnancy prevention programmed aimed at boys.

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