Hammond High School sophomore Dave Brewer remembers when his parents sat him down to talk about sex.
"They took it very seriously," he said. "Their whole philosophy is it is for marriage and it is not something you take flippantly."
He shared those frank discussions at Tuesday's Hammond Student Speak Out, where a group of 25 young people in the school cafeteria discussed sex, relationships, parents and other topics important to them.
"Students really needed a time to come in and express themselves," said 15-year-old sophomore Hansel Henry III. "We haven't done that before. Parents need to realize we're different from them. We're not the same person as they are. We should be able to make mistakes and learn from them."
Last week's event was a prelude to tomorrow's 7:30 p.m. PTSA forum, in which students, parents, police, counselors and a mall security guard will talk about contemporary issues involving youngsters.
Students say they need to be heard, respected and accepted for who they are, despite what their parents want them to be, students said.
Although last week's forum included such possible topics as religion, stereotypes, stress, drugs and alcohol, much of the discussion centered on sex.
L That emphasis concerned some of the students at the session.
"This whole generation is putting too much emphasis on sex," said Dave. "If my parents can make it together without having had sex with anybody else, and they're not cuckoo or anything like that, I think we can do it too," he said.
"Sex is . . . a big factor," said Hansel, who will represent sophomores at tomorrow's event. "It's like an everyday thing to some students. To them, it's like coming in to buy lunch."
Others said that youngsters can't help but think about sex.
Look at the prevalence of sex on television and in movies, said sophomore Tiffany Murray, 15.
"It's not us, but society talking about sex," she said.
And students complained about the stereotypes about young people who have sex -- that boys are heroes and girls are promiscuous.
"Girls play for sex when they're looking for love," said Monica Stevens, a 16-year-old junior. "Guys play for love when they're looking for sex."
Students shouldn't have sex until they're old enough to handle ++ the consequences of their actions, such as the possibility of pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, said Elizabeth Mitchell, a 17-year-old senior.
"If you're not old enough to handle a child, you shouldn't be having sex," she said.
Some of those at last week's forum were pleased to learn more about their fellow students.
Elizabeth said she was pleasantly surprised to hear male students espouse the idea that sex should wait until after marriage -- a belief they learned from their parents, they said.
"I got to know fellow classmates a little bit better," she said. "I got to know what they believe in."