MUSKEGON (AP) – More than half of Muskegon County’s school districts censored eight questions about sexuality on the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey given to students, citing concerns about the accuracy and impact of previous results.

Some schools that had allowed the questions to be posed to students for a 1996-1997 survey chose not to offer the questions on a survey given to 5,600 students in 2000, The Muskegon Chronicle reported.

The sex portion of the survey included questions about the age of first sexual intercourse, number of sexual partners, birth control use, pregnancy and whether alcohol was consumed before sex.

Whitehall Superintendent Larry Curtis said officials there were unhappy when students from that district were featured in newspaper articles on teen sexuality that referred to results from the first survey.

Muskegon Catholic officials questioned the accuracy of the first survey and chose to not participate in the 2000 survey at all.

“The eighth-grade girls sounded like they were a bunch of floozies,” said Thomas Powers, executive director of Greater Muskegon Catholic Schools.

The 1996-1997 survey had shown that nearly two out of three Muskegon Heights eighth-grade girls were having sexual intercourse and that there was just a 50 percent chance that a sexually active girl at Muskegon Catholic Central would use birth control.

Reeths-Puffer Superintendent Gloria Lewis said that district chose to pose the questions to students both times because it uses the results to make revisions to is sex education curriculum.

“It supported what we’re doing and helped us make decisions about what still needs to be brought to students’ attention,” Lewis said. “It’s wise to survey (students). If we’re going to take the time and energy to do the programs, then we should look at the data.”

Stuart Jones, grant administrator of the Muskegon County Teen-Age Pregnancy Prevention Project, said adults need to address teen sexuality and pregnancy even when it makes them uncomfortable.

“I don’t think people are as informed on the teen pregnancy issue as they need to be,” Jones said. “The statistics are frightening. I would tell you it’s a crisis.”

More than one in every ten teen girls became pregnant in Muskegon County in 2001, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. The county’s teen pregnancy rate of 108 births per 1,000 girls was the highest in the state and significantly higher than the statewide rate of 64.

Jones questioned school officials’ decision to censor the sexuality questions on the risk behavior survey.

“What are we afraid of?” Jones said. “We’re afraid of asking the question? Are we afraid of looking bad? We’re already looking bad.”

LaDon Gustafson, assistant superintendent for instruction at Muskegon Heights, said many districts that chose not to participate in the sexuality portion of the survey were unhappy about media coverage of the first results.

“They just didn’t want to deal with it,” she said. “It’s not that we don’t want the information.”

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