- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 18, 2005

More than the weather gets hot in Tampa, Fla.

A survey of the Hillsborough County school district has revealed nearly half of high school students and 1 in 5 middle-school students claim to have had sexual intercourse. And this surprises many Hillsborough parents.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey, compiled in four thick volumes by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, polled more than 5,000 randomly selected Hillsborough students, finding that nearly a third said they were propositioned to buy, bought or sold drugs while at school. More than 9 percent of male students and nearly 12 percent of female students said they had been forced to have sex.

Reporter Marilyn Brown, in the Dec. 11 edition of the Tampa Tribune, reported on a small PTA meeting of Hillsborough parents and grandparents, who said they didn’t know about the survey but were interested in the results.

Sex educators promised more information about sex would mean, if not less sex, “safer sex.” The CDC survey reveals the opposite is true with younger kids having sex and condom use declining with age, dropping from 78 percent usage in eighth grade to 61.4 percent for high-school seniors.

Leaving out the emotional and spiritual damage from early sexual activity (which is significant), the physical and societal consequences of teen sex are considerable. According to a Heritage Foundation policy paper by Robert E. Rector, sexually transmitted diseases, including incurable viral infections, are now epidemic. While we contemplate a bird flu pandemic, 3 million teenagers contract STDs every year, afflicting about 1 in 4 sexually active teens.

Mr. Rector writes about research showing a correlation between sexual activity among adolescents and the likelihood they will engage in other high-risk behavior, such as tobacco, alcohol and illicit drug use. Pediatrics magazine (Vol. 87, No. 2 Feb 1, 1991, pp 141-147) reports sexually active boys aged 12-16 are 4 times likelier to smoke and 6 times likelier to consume alcohol than those self-described as virgins.

With fewer models in culture, or at home, for stable, two-parent families (1 in 3 children are now born out of wedlock), by the time teens reach their 20s, many are living together and having babies in a nonmarital environment modeled before them by personal experience, the media and their peers. Nearly half of the mothers who give birth outside of marriage cohabit with the child’s father at the time of birth.

Though true abstinence-only programs have altered sexual behavior, the so-called “sex education” programs in government schools promote sex more than they prevent it, giving lip service to chastity while spending most of the class time teaching kids how to use condoms.

If parents care enough about their children to want to do more than fret about such things, they must radically alter their approach to childrearing.

Step 1 is to pull them from government schools that are hothouses for this behavior and thinking. Step 2 is to reduce lavish lifestyles so parents work less and invest more time in their children, with one parent actually staying home to make a safe haven. Step 3 is to allow no television in the home. Television has become hostile to things most parents want their children to believe and embrace and is deadly to their moral development, encourages disrespect for fathers and undermines things that once made families a strong, positive cultural force.

The government schools and the sex and entertainment industries aren’t about to fix the problem. The responsibility to properly raise children belongs to parents. The state and various interest groups have no right to develop the moral fiber of a child and, in fact, are speedily undermine it.

If parents don’t want any more surprises like those in Tampa, they have to rescue their kids from a hostile culture, just as they would from a burning building. In fact, those “buildings” are enveloped in the flames of self-indulgence. And the damage is not only to their bodies but to their minds and souls.

Cal Thomas is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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