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Students Teaching and Respecting Sexuality (STARS) is a program through The Florence Crittenton Agency that elicits abstaining teens, parenting teens and pregnant teens to educate young people on the possible consequences of having sex at an early age. High school students are trained in pregnancy, birth defects, communications, personal boundaries, contraception, AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, and relate the information to middle school students.
Knox county schools began utilizing the abstinence based program in 1989 and credits STARS for the reduction in their teen pregnancy rates. “Peers talking to peers about reasons why they have chosen to be abstainers is far more effective than any adult or curriculum based presentation,” said Cindy Dodson, Regional Development Coordinator for The Florence Crittenton Agency. “There is a significant positive change in attitude brought about by the STARS presentation.”
In a recent announcement, Health Commissioner Kenneth Robinson, MD cited pregnancy prevention programs were definitely making a difference in teen pregnancy rates. This is confirmed by Roane County’s statistics where STARS is the only pregnancy prevention program available. In 1999 the teen pregnancy rate (10-17 years old) was 16.9 percent. After utilizing the panel of high school students in middle schools, PTA meetings, church and community groups the percent dropped to an astonishing 6.7 percent in 2003. “By challenging these students to think about their decisions and what is really important to them, pregnancies and exposure to sexually transmitted diseases can decrease,” stated Dodson. “These statistics prove the impact of the STARS program.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, Sevier County’s teen pregnancy rate was 13.8 percent in 2003. Since STARS needs approval by the Board of Education in each county, it may continue to rise until it can be implemented. “Such effort by the panel will have major impact on STD’s, teen pregnancies, and the teens’ ability to meet their personal goals,” continued Dodson, who is looking forward to meeting with Sevier County’s Board of Education in the near future. Along with making a significant impact on teens in Knox and Roane Counties, STARS has been approved by Harriman City, Hamblen, and Monroe Counties.