Student Column

By Millicent Lawton — June 22, 1994 1 min read

High school students are more worried about AIDS than they are about young people carrying guns, racial discrimination, drug use, or teenage pregnancy, although those topics are also prominent concerns, according to a recent national poll.

In the random telephone survey of 503 students in grades 9-12, four out of 10 students said they were sexually active. Of those sexually active teenagers, 60 percent said their parents were aware of their behavior, and nearly three-quarters said they have sex in their parents’ home or that of their partner’s parents.

Nearly all of the teenagers--91 percent--said they should have sexuality-education courses, but just 72 percent of the respondents said they had actually had such a class.

Results of the nationwide survey of 252 boys and 251 girls were released last month. The poll was conducted in April by Roper Starch Worldwide Inc. and was commissioned by “Rolonda,’' a syndicated television talk show, in association with the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, a nonprofit group devoted to sex education.

The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

While nine out of 10 students said their sexually active peers should use birth control, just 59 percent of those who have sex said that they use a contraceptive on “all’’ occasions. Eleven percent said they “practically never use birth control.’'

The poll also found that girls are less comfortable than boys are with their sexual experiences.

Students in Massachusetts who have taken an AIDS-education course are significantly less likely to be sexually active and are more likely to use a condom if they are sexually active, compared with those who have not had such a class, a state department of education survey has found.

The survey of 3,054 students in grades 9-12 was released last month and funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey of risky behavior among youths was conducted in spring 1993 at 45 randomly selected high schools.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents who had no AIDS education were sexually experienced, the study found, compared with 48 percent of students who had received AIDS education.

The survey also found that since a comparable study in 1990, fewer students reported using alcohol and more students reported planning or attempting suicide.

A version of this article appeared in the June 22, 1994 edition of Education Week as Student Column