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In the Gazette article dated Feb. 9, (News, Clifton Adcock, “Time for ‘the talk,’”) the reporter wrote about state Sen. Jim Wilson, D-Tahlequah:

“Wilson cited Taft Middle School as an example of the benefits of teaching medically accurate sex education. After the classes began, the school, which had been experiencing problems with teen pregnancies, saw the number of pregnancies go down to zero, Wilson said.

“It’s pretty impressive. We know there is something going on there. This is just something we probably ought to look at in a reasonable way.”

The “something going on there” is Teen emPower! Inc. TEI teaches postponing sexual involvement (PSI), which includes the recruitment and training of high school youths to teach middle school youths about peer pressures, social pressures, assertive techniques and the risks of early sexual involvement. We also provide human growth and development lessons, which include relationships, puberty, reproductive anatomy, HIV and STDs prevention and birth control methods, including abstinence.

While we are not an abstinence- “only” program and do not believe in limiting education in that way, we emphasize abstinence. That is common sense. Not surprisingly, evaluation of our program has shown that more students see abstinence as an option once they’ve completed our lessons.

Our evaluation, prepared by Roy F. Oman, of the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center’s College of Public Health, revealed, “Current behavior regarding choosing abstinence and intentions toward choosing abstinence in the future … significantly improved.

These results are impressive. A majority of the students rated the program as beneficial and the instructors as outstanding indicating that both the curriculum and program staff are appropriate and likely meeting the population’s needs.”

Along with a science, evidence-based curriculum, peer education and medically accurate information, we pride ourselves on teaching without shame, blame or guilt. This combination is simple and effective and can be reproduced so others may obtain the same successful results.

For two years, we were primarily funded by the state. Unfortunately, funding for our successful program was not renewed due to budget cuts. Therefore, our efforts are in jeopardy. With Oklahoma ranking fifth (highest) in the nation for births to teens, we have a lot of work to do.

We can focus on prevention now and save taxpayers hard earned dollars, or we can continue to react and pay for unplanned babies throughout the duration of their lives.

—Kathy Harms
Oklahoma City

Harms is executive director and founder of Teen emPower! Inc.

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