A big question about four-day school weeks — a budget solution that several Georgia systems adopted to cut costs — was what students would do with that extra day off from classes.
An Elbert County teen health center is hoping that the answer won’t turn out to be have sex and babies at higher rates.
Take a look at this interesting article in the Georgia Health News. Here is an excerpt:
“Elbert has had the problem of teen pregnancy for a long time,” said Adriane Strong, the adolescent health educator of the Teen Matters Clinic in Elberton. “The teen birth rate was higher several years ago, then it came down. But recently, it may have gone back up,” Strong said.
“Around 20 teens aged 15 to 18 visit our clinic every week,” said Strong, “The majority of them are seeking services including birth control and STD testing and treatment.”
Strong suspects that three-day weekends could contribute to the rebound of the teen pregnancy rate. “There is a large gap of time when teens are unsupervised on Mondays,” said Strong, “That may bring the potential for them to do things that they may not do when they are occupied with school, though they tell me they just stay at home or do babysitting.”
Lack of adult supervision is an established factor in studies of risky behaviors among teenagers, according to Matthew Lee Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion and Behavior at UGA’s College of Public Health. “When students have additional unsupervised time, it may facilitate opportunities to engage in risky sexual behaviors,” said Smith.
Another factor may be the shortage of safe, constructive alternatives for teenagers in this rural county. “We have no malls, no movie theater, no bowling alley in Elbert,” said Strong. “There isn’t a lot for teens to do. When they have more time on their hands, we really cannot control what may happen.”
The last time the Northeast Georgia Health District surveyed teens about behavior and risk, in 2003, about 38 percent of Elbert County’s 15- to 19-year-olds said they were sexually active. Of those, 67 percent had multiple partners and 25 percent said they did not use condoms.
More surprisingly, Elbert County had a teen birthrate of 53 per 1,000 teens during the years 1996 to 2001. That was higher than the national rate, showing why teen pregnancy continues to be a top health concern in northeast Georgia, according to the BART survey.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog