It's progressive. We're getting more permissive as we go. And I think there
are a lot of things that show that. ... I think that what you'd find in
Rockdale County is parents are increasingly more talking to their kids ...
about sex, not as much as they need to, and I'm not even sure that [my wife]
and I did with [our sons] as much as we probably should have, but we did as
much as we could. But, but the attitude scares me a little bit. When I would
talk to Randolph and David, when they were in the sixth grade, some of the
stories they'd come back and talk about what kids were doing. I didn't even
know that they could have sex, let alone that they were. ...
It strikes me that there's a little bit of a disconnect between the church
going, the values of the community, and the activities of the kids. Have you
noticed that, and if so, how do you make sense of that?
It's hard to reconcile the fact that, that the children and a lot of young
people are increasingly going to church and they're increasingly participating
more in church, but their sexual activities are picking up. It's not like what
you'd expect to have happen, which is by going to church they, you know they
abstain or stay away from it. ...
A few years ago there was a syphilis outbreak in this community.
A pretty large one as a matter of fact.
Tell me about what you know about the size and the make-up of the kids in
It was pretty large. I knew over thirty partners that had been involved with a
group of three young ladies to start with, they were fairly young, I think the
youngest was thirteen or fourteen, the oldest was sixteen or seventeen as far
as the girls were concerned. The males went all the way from, from fifteen or
sixteen, I think the oldest was around twenty-nine or thirty. And they were
varied as far as the economic level of their families. The girls were fairly
wealthy, I mean they were coming from upper middle class, nice families that
you would not have expected something like that out of. And the boys that were
participants and partners--some of them were exactly what you'd expect, some
drug dealer types and some thugs that had been in trouble with the law before.
But some of them also were very well respected doctors' children, teachers'
children, even I think there was even one minister's child that was involved
It really surprised me, and I remember when the parents were approached about
this they could not believe that their kids had been part of it. ... They were
flabbergasted and some of them were in total denial. They would not believe
that their kids had been involved with that.
I know that you know a lot of this behavior was happening without knowledge
of the parents...
How can that be, how does that happen?
You know, a lot of it was happening without the parents' knowledge, but ... a
lot of it was happening not in the sexual activity but letting kids go further
than they probably should have. Some of the parents were letting their kids
drink at home, some of the parents were actually letting their kids have
parties at home and would supply kegs and other things that we saw. I think
that all that is almost a symptom of what the overall problem was. Parents
were trying to be friends with their kids as opposed to parents and I think
that comes about because when both parents work and both parents are away from
their kids, they're not close to them, they don't have that bond that they used
to have. ... When I was commission chairman of the county ... we talked about
the youth in Rockdale County, and we tried to focus on where that idle time
was, the time between when the parents got home from work and the time that
they couldn't do things, to try to give opportunities to kids to get involved
with stuff to keep them from having the problems that they could get into.
Did you ever wonder whether that was your job, as County Commission, to be
providing activities for these kids?
We did, and I struggle with that in my mind a lot. ... I feel very strongly
that government should be limited as much as possible. ... I think the
government should only do what people can't do for themselves.
... In Rockdale County I did struggle with how far government should go, and
what I chose to do, and what I felt like was the right thing to do, was to give
opportunities out there in areas that I thought government could be the only
one that provided it--whether it was softball, whether it was baseball fields,
a, a swimming pool or a gymnasium, or things like that that normal people could
not provide themselves, and then encourage the parents to participate, through
being coaches and different levels of participating.
We worked with the school system and the churches in the area to provide
activities that kids could choose to go to, to get help with anything from
having trouble with their boyfriends or girlfriends to getting extra tutoring.
And we tried to bring as many of the family members into being with their kids
again, almost like reacquainting them with them and letting folks that it is
your responsibility, it's not Rockdale County's responsibility, the
government's responsibility. Parents have to take control of what their kids
Are the parents doing that now?
I hope I'm seeing a swing right now, but I'm not sure that I am. It seems
like we're still on this tear to make so much money, to have to have so much
bigger houses, to have nicer cars, the group that's losing is the kids because
we're not having connections and we're trying to be friends with our kids as
opposed to being parents. You have to say no to your kids, your kids need to
know that you love them enough to say 'you can't do that.' They need to know
that when they go out. if they don't come in at proper time, that there's going
to be something that happens that they don't like because of that. If we
don't, then we're sending them a signal that we don't really care about them.
And so I hope that starts happening. ... I don't know if it's happening across
the state and the nation. I hope it is. I think in Rockdale County ... that
what you're seeing now is you're seeing more and more ... people realize that
having that big house is not necessarily the answer. ...
Going back to the syphilis outbreak, there was a town meeting that happened
after the outbreak had sort of run its course. There were very few parents
that showed up, despite, according to the health department, a lot of
advertising that happened...
Because parents did not believe that their kids would do that. ... There were
drugs that were involved, there was drinking involved, and there was a lot of
group sex involved with it, and they just would not believe that their kids
would be involved in that type of activity. ... Even the parents whose kids
were involved with that, they would not believe that their kids could be
involved in something like that. And they did not come. ...
Was this a group of kids that were sort of on the fringes, not ordinary
kids, or was it really a cross section of kids of Rockdale County?
... Some of them were absolutely right in the middle of what I would consider
the normal Rockdale County children. And then on the edges were the older
folks. They weren't from this county, they were outside the county coming into
the county. But for the most part, most of them were from your middle to upper
... I suspect that if you look across the state or across the country, you'll
probably see the same things happening in other places. You know, there was a
syphilis outbreak in this particular one, and because of that outbreak, people
heard about it. But the same activities I expect probably go on every place
else, maybe just not the sexually transmitted diseases are a part of it. We
tried to use that as a time to wake people up, to let people know that this is
going on, in the hope that we'll get parents energized and involved with it. I
know you guys interviewed some folks around Rockdale County, if you talk to the
folks at the schools, you'll probably see that we have less parental
involvement as it goes along as opposed to more parental involvement right now.
And that needs to change.
What is Teen Plus?
What is Teen Plus? It is a concept [that] came about because the federal
government had some dollars to bring down to communities hopefully to stop
sexually transmitted disease outbreaks. And so what they did was is they
created a pot of money ... that came down to the state and then was filtered
out to the cities and counties to create centers that would hopefully change
the behavior of the kids in the hardest hit areas where there was a lot of
sexually transmitted diseases and problems. Back in '98, because there were a
number of state wide races going on ... it really started becoming public that
that's what was happening and there was some of them that had been created that
were offensive to a lot of people.
They were offensive because what they were doing was they were taking the idea
of sex and condoms and how you distribute them and how you teach kids and
putting it in the middle school arena and away from parents.
... Let me paint a picture for you, if I can, of some of the Teen Plus centers
that I went to. One that I went to first was in downtown Atlanta. And that
Teen Plus center, if you can picture a city block, there's Dunbar Elementary
School on one side, there's a tennis court a baseball field and a swimming
pool on the other side, and there's a gym, okay, all connected by sidewalks,
all on one city block. There is a Teen Plus center in the gym.
Now, in that Teen Plus center what happens is they can distribute condoms--and
I guess any school could if they wanted to--but they can and do give advice to
kids on sexually transmitted diseases, on birth control and other things. They
can also give your kids contraceptives and they can also do exams if they
needed to. ... And the part that I find extremely offensive about that is they
are federal funds and because of the way they came down, the parents don't even
have to be told. And so if you have a daughter and she wanted to become
sexually active, she could go to that Teen Plus center in an elementary school,
because there's no age limit, not a top or bottom, ... and she could ask them
for advice on sex instead of talking to her parents ... They can give her birth
control, if that is what she chooses to do. If she gets pregnant they can take
her and, at her request--not at yours--and they can treat her, whether it's an
abortion or just help her along with the pregnancy.
The parents aren't even told. ... My kids when they were in elementary school
weren't at the age to make decisions that could effect their lives like that.
And I don't want strangers to make that decision. If my kids have something
that can threaten their lives, can threaten how they can have families or
anything else as they get older, I want to help them make that decision. As
their parent, I think that's my right and my responsibility. ...
And even worse than that, it's almost like a candy store. When you put all
that stuff right in front of those kids and advertise it-- that was the whole
point, to put [the Teen Plus centers] close to kids so that those kids knew it
was right there and it encouraged them to come to it and do it. Well, that's
okay, I guess, if you are disconnected with your kids ... maybe it's good that
somebody is trying to do that. But I know for me, or for the people in
Rockdale County, that was not what they wanted, they didn't want somebody to
tell them what they could do and not do and provide services that intimate to
their children. So that's what the controversy is.
You were pretty sure you were reflecting the values of Rockdale County in
opposing Teen Plus here.
I think I was. We had public hearings on it. We had several very strongly
attended public meetings. We talked a few minutes ago about the sexually
transmitted diseases and the public hearings were held on that and they were
not attended. I could draw a lot of conclusions from the fact that we have a
meeting about Teen Plus and it was overflowing crowds of two, three hundred
people who were extremely angry, and some of the very same parents whose kids
probably were involved with some of the activities were saying, "No, you're not
going to do that, you're not going to bring that to Rockdale County, we don't
want that here." It came back down to what as parents people felt like was is
that it was the government, the federal government in this particular case,
coming down, putting their noses into how we're raising our kids. ...
Now wait a minute, though, you've just been talking for the last half hour
about how parents don't have control of their kids, even in this county.
We've talked about is--a lot of parents think they have control over their kids
because kids are very good at hiding things from their parents sometimes and
again, maybe that's where the disconnect is ... . That is ... one of the very
points that I made in those public hearings when we had it on the sexually
transmitted diseases. I don't have the answer to it but again I can tell you
what's not the answer. What's not the answer is to get the federal government
or state government more involved in raising kids. ...
But I can tell you recognize the irony of parents who aren't involved enough
in their kids' lives to know that they're having sex--at the same time saying
to the government or Teen Plus, we don't want you talking about it either. So
who talks to them?
If I had my choice of the government teaching my kids or me falling down on my
responsibility and not doing it, I would rather have the responsibility and be
very aware that that was my responsibility and be held accountable for it. ...
I was not willing to take that next step which is make it that much easier on
parents. Were there going to be consequences? Ya. And I was trying to do
things to make sure kids didn't fall through the cracks. Without the Teen Plus
centers, the health departments are in place today that can do exactly the same
things. ... But, you know, don't force it down people's throats, and don't
put it like candy stores in elementary schools like people are trying to do it.
That was what I had a problem with.
There were those at the time and since, who said that your opposition to
Teen Plus was political, basically. What is your response to that?
That's a legitimate question, did I do it because I was running for a public
office? No, I didn't. I think and if you look at my career, what you'll see
is that I've pretty much been pretty consistent in what I do and say. ... When
I ran for Lieutenant Governor, I ran for that job because I believed that [on]
the issues that were facing Georgia, I had a perspective that other people
didn't have that were running, and I thought I could make a difference. I
spoke very strongly about the issues that I felt strongly on and I was right up
front and honest.
If you look back from day one, whether it was not letting new dance clubs come
in Rockdale County even though a fraternity brother of mine tried to start one
in Rockdale County, or whether it was how we ran county government, or how we
didn't expand governmental programs, you would see those consistent all the way
down the line. And what I said, if you look at how I've raised my family, if
you look at how I live my life, I think you'll see that there's no
inconsistencies whatsoever. And so I don't mind you asking that question, but
I'll tell you straight up, you know, as honestly as I can, it was absolutely
not political even to the point that we tried, if you go back and you look,
what you will see is, is that I quietly wrote a letter and turned it down
before it ever got to be a public issue. I tried to turn it down and not let
it be a political issue as opposed to making it one. ...
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