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Health Professionals Say Many Teens Unaware of Risks of Sexual Behavior

Two Mifflin High School students were sentenced recently for engaging in oral sex with a developmentally disabled student and video taping the incident last spring. A recent national study shows the Mifflin students among 50-percent of teens across the country who say they have experienced oral sex, giving some health providers reason for concern.

A recent study conducted by the centers for Disease Control and Prevention found half of 15 to 19-year olds have engaged in oral sex, some without knowing sexually transmitted diseases can be passed along this way, just as they can by having unprotected vaginal intercourse.

Dr. Jason Mellilo is a Obstetrician and Gyneocologist with Kingsdale Gyneocologic Associates. He says patients are often shocked when told they have a sexually transmitted disease.

In the recent Mifflin case, after investigating allegations that two boys engaged in oral sex involving a 16 year old developmentally delayed girl. Police described the auditorium stage where the incident occurred as "littered with condoms". After his sentencing, the lawyer for one of the boys involved in the case said his client did not understand what he had done wrong. And that's a feeling shared by teens attending other schools as well.

13,000 patients come through the Columbus Health Department each year, one third to one half of whom are in their teens or early twenties.

Sex Health Program leader Mary Krempasky confirms the casual attitude some young people have about oral sex.

A spot-check of various districts found the most school disticts in central ohio favor an abstinence-only sex education curriculum, where information on oral sex is not included. Supporters of abstinence programs point to lower pregnancy rates because teens are delaying intercourse. But opponents say young people are substituting other behaviors such as unprotected oral sex.

The State Department of Education declined to comment on sex education courses with abstinence at the core since local school districts are free to emphasize abstinence or birth control as they see fit.

In addition, The Ohio School Psychologists Association also declined comment on this story. A spokeswoman said board members were concerned their remarks might be misconstrued.

That reluctance to talk about teens, oral sex and sexually transmitted diseases worries health professionals. Mary Krempasky of the city health department says kids need information in order to protect themselves.

Dr. Mellilo agrees. And while he doesn't take issue with abstinence only per se, he thinks there's merit in telling teenagers about the dangers of having unprotected oral sex.

One school official we talked with in the course of covering this story said parents are split about how to teach children about sex. Some believe it's their job. others are still reluctant to talk about sex.

Thanks to WOSU's Sabrina Hersi-Issa for production help on this story.