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Students find sex ed patterns

Sex education may not be as black and white as we think, according to research conducted at Jackson County high schools.

Under the guidance of Community Health Educator Jane Stevenson with the Jackson County Department of Health and Human Services and mentors from Southern Oregon University, high school students surveyed their peers about sex education.

"Some of the findings were surprising in that there was a certain level of apathy," SOU student researcher and mentor Sarah Scott said.

Ashland High School seniors Bridget Palmesano and Samantha Darnell surveyed students in health and physical education classes to find students who were less concerned about birth control education and more interested in learning about relationships.

Of the students surveyed at Ashland High School, 29.5 percent said sex education classes affected their decision to use birth control. Forty point nine percent said it did not.

Rather than learn more about birth control and abstinence, the majority of surveyed students in Ashland said they wanted to learn more about how to maintain a relationship.

Thirty-five point two percent of students wanted to learn more about healthy relationship skills, and 29.5 percent wished communication was covered more in classes.

Part of the Local Youth Action Research Team, the students will make recommendations to Gov. Ted Kulongoski as part of a revised Teen Pregnancy Prevention and Sexual Health Plan for Oregon.

Jackson County was one of three areas selected in 2005 as pilot sites to gather information about teen pregnancy and sex education. The new state plan is set to come out in 2007.

Randee Nicolay, an Eagle Point High School graduate, surveyed students still in school there to find about half of boys and girls were sexually active. Of the 298 students who agreed to fill out surveys, 49 percent said they used condoms. For Nicolay, now a student at Rogue Community College, the most shocking evidence was the amount of students who weren't concerned who their partners were sleeping with.

"What stood out the most was that people didn't care who their partners were engaging in sexual activity with," Nicolay said.

Tammie Harrison, a senior at North Medford High School, surveyed a demographic of 149 13- to 19-year-olds who were members of local church youth groups.

Harrison found 85 percent of those surveyed were not sexually active. Seventy-three percent said religion played a major role in their decision to be abstinent.

Seventy-one percent of students Harrison surveyed said they wanted more community involvement to teach them about sex education.

"Teenagers are listening to the faith community," Harrison said. "They just need to hear more."

Students will discuss their results Thursday at a community discussion at Vibes Main — Center for Performing Arts at 821 N. Riverside in Medford. For more information, contact Jane Stevenson at 774-8021 or stevenjs@jacksoncounty.org.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or .