BUFFALO, NY- Dozens of students and their parents attended the fourth and final community forum on youth sex in Buffalo at Bennett High School Thursday night.
"Teens have sex. And people don't want to believe that teens have sex, but I feel as if it should be brought to light," said 17-year-old Erika Richardson, a senior at Performing Arts High School, who is on a personal crusade to address the problem of teens having sex in Buffalo.
"I dare you to care about your schools and your community. I dare you to care about us and our future," she said in a YouTube video urging her peers and their parents to attend the forum. The previous three had low turnouts. At the forum, Richardson also performed with a group called Teen Reality Theater to separate the facts from the myths.
"We seek to replace fear, shame and risky behavior, with education, information and personal responsibilities. And at the end of the day we're teens helping teens," said Richardson.
That's needed, she said, because most kids aren't having the birds and the bees talk at home.
"My parents never talked to me about sex. They just figured I wasn't having any," she said.
Erika said she didn't learn about it school either. The first time it was even addressed was health class her junior year.
"My teacher basically told everyone we're not supposed to talk about sex. 'They want us to teach you about abstinence so we're not going to teach you about this topic,' and he just skimped right though it."
The lack of sex education is creating dangerous results. In a survey of 11,000 Buffalo School students last year, almost 15.8 percent of middle school students reported being sexually active. Almost half of those students said they had three or more partners, and 22 percent of those students didn't wear a condom.
For high school student, 51.1 percent are having sex. That's 20 percent higher than the state average. And more than 30.8 percent don't regularly use a condom.
The percentage of Buffalo Public School students reporting having four or more sexual partners is 41 percent higher than the NYS average.
Almost half of all students say they did not learn about HIV/AIDS in school.
"It's like brushing your teeth in the morning. Everyone's having sex just as much as everyone's brushing their teeth," said Richardson
Officials hope the forums will be helpful in collecting information that can be used to establish a comprehensive sex-education program for the school district.