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Herald-Mail asks youths why local teen birth rate is so high

March 17, 2006

Nearly everyone who has been interviewed on the issue of teen pregnancy agrees that Washington County's rate is too high. What almost no one agrees on is why.

Condoms are available for purchase at every drug store in the county and can be obtained for free through clinics of the Washington County Health Department.

And many teens who have become parents have been through the school system's Family Life classes.

Some, including Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel, have argued that the classes aren't adequate, but teens surveyed as part of last year's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Needs Assessment knew more about condoms and where to get birth control than many parents did.

So why, if teens have access to so much information, do so many of them fail to use it to avoid becoming parents?

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We have our own ideas, but the members of the editorial page staff are a long way from their own teen years. We need some input from the students who are dealing with this issue right now.

We're inviting youths age 12-18 to tell us, in 250 words or less, why the local teen birth rate is so high.

Letters are due in by Monday, April 25 and will be published in a page in this section on Sunday, April 30.

That's just prior to The National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which will be held on Wednesday, May 3.

On that day, an organization known as the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy will ask teens to take an online quiz that gives them a series of real-life scenarios that require teens in sexual situations to make a choice.

Teens who responded to last year's assessment needs survey often complained that parents lectured them, as opposed to having real conversations about sex.

Part of having such a dialogue is being willing to listen. We're ready to listen to what teens say about this vital topic and share it with our readers.

Teens may mail their letters to: Opinion Page, The Herald-Mail, P.O. Box 439, Hagerstown, MD 21741 or e-mail them to opinion@herald-mail.com.

Please include your name, address and daytime phone number, so we can contact you if there are any problems.

For more information, please visit this Web site: www.teenpregnancy. org.

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