North Florida’s Franklin County has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state. Between 2013 and 2015, there were 28 births per thousand girls between 15 to 17 years old. Jocelyn Beever reports the figures remain high even as overall teen births have dropped in recent years.
When it comes to teaching sex ed in Franklin County, abstinence is the choice word.
Choices is a federally funded Sexual Risk Avoidance Program, taught to 6th to 11th grade students in Franklin County. The focus is not on sexual education, but on making healthy decisions to avoid negative outcomes, says Choices Facilitator D.T Simmons.
“Could that outcome be something such as teen pregnancy? It could be, but we don’t focus on that. We focus on the healthy decisions vs unhealthy and the risk of potential outcomes that may be a result of those decisions,” says Simmons.
“At best, it’s sort of this fear-based incomplete education. At worst, it can give students inaccurate information. For example, in Florida, it’s not required that sex education be medically accurate,” Burdette says.
Amy Burdette teaches sociology at Florida State University. She says teens are already thinking about sex, and
“There’s no evidence whatsoever that talking to teens about sex leads them to have sex.”
Despite the high birth rate in Franklin County, Capital City Youth Services doesn’t counsel many pregnant teens in the school district. CCYS is an agency located in Tallahassee that provides temporary housing and resources to youth in crisis. Clinical Director Jason Ishley says pregnant teens are likely to drop out and seek services from CCYS a few years later. And, he says doing outreach in the county is hard.
Franklin is made up of small fishing villages, with no hub city and Ishley says residents are wary of outsiders.
“It’s very ‘you’re not from here, you weren’t born and raised…