Adults Hear What’s On Teens’ Minds At Forum

THURSDAY, OCT. 12, 1995

Nearly 100 teens came to a few conclusions Wednesday: School often is a waste of time. They need to learn more about sex.

And they need more to do in Spokane.

The teens came together for “Teens Unplugged,” a two-hour forum put on by the Chase Youth Commission and The Spokesman-Review in which young people were invited to share their views with community decision-makers.

“A major complaint is we need a faster-moving curriculum,” said Belinda Roberts, a junior at Central Valley High School who also takes classes at Eastern Washington University.

Roberts and other teens said high school classes should give students knowledge they can apply to work or college.

For example, schools shouldn’t require gym class because students miss learning other relevant subjects, Roberts said.

That was one conclusion drawn at Lewis and Clark High School during the forum’s first hour. Teens split into large groups, ate pizza, discussed an assigned topic and jotted down problems and possible solutions.

Some adults, including the mayor, school officials and parents, showed up to hear the discussion.

During the second hour, teens from each group talked about their findings.

Most youths wanted more exposure to other cultures, an education more applicable to the real world, more to do in Spokane and more education about sex - both abstinence and safe sex.

Cassie Taylor, a North Pines Junior High ninth-grader, said birth control should be available at schools, and sex education should target younger students.

By the time kids get to high school, Taylor said, they’ve already made a lot of decisions regarding sex.

Some believe adults and teens need to work on better communication, spending more time together and earning mutual respect.

“Kids need to learn to respect adults, but adults need to take us seriously,” said Brita Bergstrom, a Lewis and Clark senior. “They need to trust us more.”

Several teens said they dislike being negatively stereotyped just because a few teens are tough to deal with.

One youth got loud applause after objecting to school policies that ban students from class if they are late.

As the forum ended, teens placed dots next to issues they thought should be priorities for the youth commission, which will conduct annual planning this week.

One of the main priorities for teens is simply finding something to do.

“We need things for all types of people to do,” said Alena Robison, a Lewis and Clark High School senior. “We can’t just open a night club and think everyone will want to do that.”

By the end of the forum, the teens were geared up to meet again.

“This is a really important thing,” said Walker Lewis, a 16-year-old Lewis and Clark junior. “These discussions here are the beginning of the solutions.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo

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