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January 20, 2011 - Kylie Saari
At my high school graduation, the buzz was not excited gossip about their achievement, their plans, or the parties they were about to attend. The excitement was about whether Heather* was going to come, and if so, if she was going to bring the baby she had given birth to just a week before. It was scandalous, and not one of the students was lamenting the choices she had made. To be honest, I don't even remember if she came. Just recently, a district in Memphis, Tenn., made news when it was reported that 11 percent of its student body had either had a baby or was currently pregnant since September. I don't know if times have changed, or if it is just that more people are open about it, with families less likely to send their "disgraced" child to live with her aunt for a school year. National studies have shown the overall birth rate among teens is at its lowest in the 70 years since such records were kept, but let's also keep in mind that many women were married and having children in their late teens back then. The high school I attended was larger than the Memphis school, which boasts 800 students, so clearly it isn't a matter of the more students you have the more teen pregnancies you have. Bloggers across the internet are blaming the MTV show Teen Mom for that increase, and while I am not a regular viewer, I am not sure how many young women want to emulate the fighting, crying, and loss the women on that show have displayed to the world each week. I know there are teen pregnancies in Fairmont. I have seen teens with babies, and read their struggles on their Facebook profiles, but getting hard and fast information is difficult. Schools are fearful of making the news with this type of information, and therefore pretty much flat out refuse to discuss the issue, so I can't say for sure how the numbers compare Memphis to Fairmont, but I would guess there are more teen moms around here than the average adult would expect. I don't have the answer, and the issue is so polarized even if I did I am sure I would not be listened to. But I would like to suggest parents give their sons (yes, sons) and daughters an extra hug tonight. It isn't easy being a teen.
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