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Georgia county rocked by teen-sex
The Public Broadcasting Service aired "The Lost Children of Rockdale County", a documentary that features interviews with teens who claim they've had as many as 100 sexual partners -- or joined in group sex parties. Some report becoming sexually active as young as 12.
During the program, three teen-age girls used stuffed animals to depict how classmates participated in multiple-partner sex. Other teens recounted group sex parties at upper middle-class homes.
The program is centered on a 1996 syphilis outbreak that infected 17 Rockdale County teen-agers and forced 250 others to get medical treatment.
17 Rockdale County teen-agers were infected with syphilis in a 1996 outbreak
It would be a parent's nightmare to find out his or her teen-age child has contracted a sexually transmitted disease. But it is a harsh wake-up call when the entire country learns about it - on a national television program.
"My reaction to it was sadness," said Bill Hughey of the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families. "Sad that children were in that situation and that the community was not prepared to deal with it."
Public health officials learned in the spring of 1996 of an outbreak of syphilis among teenagers in the county -- some of the infected youngsters were as young as 13. It was ironic for a time when the incidence of syphilis was at an all-time low, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials tested more than 250 kids who might have been exposed through multiple sex partners or group sex.
"My question is -- where are the parents who set limits as to what are ... acceptable behaviors and what is not? " said Hughey. "And if you say that's acceptable -- you create that environment."
When the news hit the local newspaper, parents and community members were horrified. This documentary, said some, added salt to the wound.
Barak Goodman, who co-produced the program with his wife, Rachel Dretzin Goodman, said it is not intended to make Rockdale County seem aberrant.
"We wanted to show that this behavior is really just flags or indicators that something much more profound is afflicting our kids everywhere," Goodman said.
"The community can't be in denial that it's there," said Hughey.
Second unwanted spotlight for Conyers
"But on the other side ... that knowledge can allow for a response -- solutions to be created within the community that can be positive to the community - and I think that will make this a better place to be," he said.
This is not the first time that a negative has put Conyers in the national spotlight. A school shooting in at Heritage High School in May wounded six students. T.J. Solomon, the classmate accused of the school assault, is awaiting trial on adult charges.
Many members of the community say that healing can start today
with one simple solution: letting teens know that they are a valued
part of the community, of their families and are respected. Because
only then will the teen-agers respect themselves.