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The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is a national school-based survey developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and conducted by local education and health agencies. The 2011 survey information was gathered from students in grades 9-12 during October 2010 to December 2011. Only the Memphis City School system has been required to conduct the survey, not Shelby County Schools.

The 2011 survey shows that 62.2 percent of Memphis City Schools students who completed the survey reported having had sexual intercourse, up slightly from 61.6 percent who reported ever having had sexual intercourse in 2009. The 2011 survey shows a significant increase in the number of students who report having had sexual intercourse for the first time before age 13—15.6% in 2011 over 12.1% in 2009; more students report never being taught about AIDS or HIV infection in school—22.8% in 2011 report this, over 20.6% in 2009; and students are less likely to have used a condom during their last sexual intercourse—27.9% in 2011, up from 27.6% in 2009. To view the 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, click here.

Essentially the survey results in Memphis have been unchanged since 2003—meaning two entire classes of students have completed their high school years and graduated without any significant improvement in these sexual behaviors that put young people at risk of unplanned pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

But the problems are not confined to Memphis alone. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s “KIDS COUNT: The State of the Child in Tennessee 2011” study, released last week, showed that children in Shelby County have the highest rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection in all of Tennessee. In fact, nearly half of all the teenage cases of sexually transmitted infections in the state are in Shelby County. To view the study, click here.

Lack of access to adequate education about sexuality is hurting our young people and putting them at risk for unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infection. Tennessee’s “family life” curriculum, that is supposed to include information about sexuality, was always inadequate and unevenly taught. But a bill passed by the Tennessee General Assembly this spring and signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam last month will make it even less likely that Tennessee students will get the information they need to protect themselves. HB 3621/SB 3310, now Public Chapter 973 of the Tennessee Code, changes Tennessee’s family life curriculum to “exclusively and emphatically promote sexual risk avoidance through abstinence, regardless of a student’s current or prior sexual experience”—effectively denying students, who may already be sexually active, valuable and even life-saving information about contraception and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections. 

Polls show that parents overwhelmingly support comprehensive and medically accurate sex education programs. In fact, a 2011 poll by the Center for Research on Women at the University of Memphis shows that the vast majority of Shelby County residents wish that teenagers were provided more comprehensive information about sex.

Planned Parenthood will continue to advocate for comprehensive, age-appropriate sexuality education that includes messages about both the value of abstinence as a prevention method and the importance of using barrier methods such as condoms and other methods of contraception when one does become sexually active.

Planned Parenthood offers age-appropriate sexuality education for youth groups, church groups and community groups that can be tailored to fit the needs of different age groups. For more information, click here. To schedule an education session, call Jennifer Warren at (901) 725-3014.

Planned Parenthood also offers preventative health care to teens, including annual gynecological exams, a wide range of birth control methods and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment. Most of these services are free or available at little cost to teenagers age 18 and under. For more information or to schedule an appointment online, go to www.plannedparenthood.org/memphis.


Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region (PPGMR), founded in 1938, is an affiliate of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. PPGMR’s mission is to ensure broad public access to reproductive and related health care through clinic services, education, advocacy and community partnerships in serving 42 counties in West Tennessee, North Mississippi and East Arkansas.


Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region


June 13, 2012