All Articles Tagged "teen moms"
It’s become abundantly clear that legislators spanning the school system to the federal government will stop at nothing to curb teen pregnancy. Unfortunately in that quest, the same way that women bear the brunt of the burden of childbirth, they are also disproportionately made to suffer the consequences of pre-marital sex, particularly at Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana. There, the administration has implemented a highly controversial policy that can best be summarized as “have sex, just don’t get pregnant.” Outlined in the school handbook, the policy reads:
If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further reserves the right to refer the suspected student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.
If a student is determined to be pregnant and wishes to continue to attend Delhi Charter School, the student will be required to pursue a course of home study that will be provided by the school…Any student who is suspected of being pregnant and who refuses to submit to a pregnancy test shall be treated as a pregnant student and will be offered home study opportunities. If home study opportunities are not acceptable, the student will be counseled to seek other educational opportunities.
The purpose of the policy, aimed at the school’s 600 students in grades K-12, is to maintain its high standard for student character. Don’t bother re-reading the policy to figure out how the character of the male student’s at Delhi is judged. You won’t find anything. The American Civil Liberties Union has already jumped on the charter school for the illegality of their discriminatory policy. I’m more concerned with the faulty thought pattern that led them to create it in the first place.
Teen pregnancy is no doubt an issue that needs to be tackled head-on, but this effort goes about it through the backdoor. I have a hard time understanding the logic in essentially aiding someone to become a dependent single mother. From my view, becoming a teen mother is self-punishment enough, in the sense that it’s hardly an ideal situation and one that is wrought with challenges. What is gained by also limiting a woman’s education to further prevent her from becoming self-sufficient and an adequate parent? It may not be the best use of resources to pour even more effort into making sure these girl’s graduate, but if anything that would be the route to go. Besides, I’m not convinced that the state of being pregnant requires any more effort on the mother or the school’s part to ensure a pregnant student earns a diploma. With the exception of sick days and perhaps having trouble fitting into a desk, the “distraction” argument used to justify the teen mom-shaming that goes on at many schools around this country is weak at best. ThinkProgress.org points out that “thirty percent of all teen girls who drop out of high school cite pregnancy as the main reason, and a full 70 percent of teenage girls who give birth end up leaving school.” That’s the real distraction to society, the work force, child-rearing, and the social security crisis, not a 16-year-old waddling down the hall with a round belly.
Analyzing this policy, it’s no longer surprising to me that many men don’t instantly feel compelled to be present in the lives of children they father with women with whom they don’t have binding relationships. No one forces them to. This policy implements crippling consequences for teen mothers while not even bothering to require that men own up to fathering any children, be shamed for their “character faults,” or have any aspect of their lives interrupted by their choice to have unprotected sex that leads to conception. The double standard is as apparent as the lights flashing in Times Square and justifies an entire attitude of irresponsibility that comes to characterize a large proportion of the male sex. So often we think men just don’t care, but the thing is no one makes them, or even demonstrates any reasons that they should.
Across the genders, policies like this also seek to instill negative connotations around sex as though it is a morally deplorable act of bad character when that’s not the message teens need. Sex is fine, good, great, beautiful, normal, exciting, acceptable, and all of those things when done within the proper parameters and an adequate understanding of the positive and negative emotional, physical, and fiscal consequences. It baffles me that in a day and age where we can talk to a fictitious robot in our phone named Siri to handle our daily needs, we still haven’t figured out how to properly educate teenagers about sex—or leave the job up to the best people for the job most times, their parents.
I’ve yet to hear of a high school girl becoming pregnant via artificial insemination—or Immaculate Conception since Jesus’ mother Mary—so if you’re going to condemn one, you need to condemn all involved in the act of teen pregnancy. Better yet, why condemn them educationally at all?
What do you think about Delhi’s pregnancy policy?
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According to MSNBC, less than two percent of girls who get pregnant before the age of 18 obtain a college degree before they turn 30 years old. But when Nicole Lynn Lewis became a pregnant teenager in 1998, she was determined to continue her education and raise her little girl. Two and a half months later her child was born and she began taking classes at William and Mary. Today, she holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the College of William & Mary as well as a master’s degree in Social Policy and Communication from George Mason University. After securing her degrees and working for nonprofits, Lewis has made it her mission to help other teenage mothers reach education success through her organization, Generation Hope.
Founded in 2010, Generation Hope provides mentorship and financial support to teen mothers who wish to attend college in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area. The program gives $1,200 a year to participants attending a two-year college and $2,400 to those attending four year schools.
Lewis chose her first class of seven teen girls from a pool of 12 applicants. Her first application was from a girl who had gotten pregnant at 12.
“And that was a huge shock for all of us,” she said to MSNBC. “It really brought home for me the need for our program. Because I can’t see telling a young woman who’s 12 years old that her life is now over.”
Jennifer Ramirez is one of Generation Hope’s current participants. Now 23, Ramirez got pregnant at 15 with her son Jordan. With the program’s help, Ramirez now has additional finances as well as the support of mentor Suzanne Simpson, a lawyer and president of Howard County’s women’s bar association in Maryland. Although initially nervous, the two have built a close bond and talk all the time; their children even play together. Later this month, Ramirez will become the first college graduate in her family and earn her college degree from the University of Maryland.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Ramirez said to MSNBC. ”So, take the good, and the bad, and make it great.”
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At the end of last week there were multiple articles popping up online about the resurgence of pregnancy pacts. Hellobeautiful.com had uncovered a Facebook photo of four high school girls showing off their expectant bellies while their friends commented that the pic was “kute” and wondered who would be the first to drop. I didn’t even want to click on the articles because the last time I had heard about pregnancy pacts was last January when a Memphis high school came under pressure for 90 of its teens being pregnant or having a baby that school year. The rate was chalked up to abstinence-only teaching, accidental pregnancies and unfortunately the thought that being a teen mom is “cute.” Before that it was the 2008 Gloucester High pregnancy pact involving 17 teens that sparked the Lifetime Original movie, and being four years removed from that, I wanted to believe that there was no way this craziness had become a trend again, but there the blatant evidence was staring me in the face. Looking at the photo like someone trying to decipher hieroglyphics, all I could think was, where are the non-pregnancy pacts?
I don’t particularly get bent out of shape over teen pregnancies. I do in the sense that it’s an unfortunate situation, an accident of the utmost consequence, and a life-altering experience that makes me feel sympathy and compassion for the teens involved, but when it comes to intentionally deciding you are going to create a child knowing full well you cannot care for it, I can’t wrap my head around that choice. Dr. Boyce Watkins wrote a great five-point article to try to ease his frustrations with the reality behind the image seen in the photo. I love how he presented his ideas from an optimistic viewpoint of what he hopes are the circumstances behind these girls’ decisions, but I’m going to remix his list into my own non-pregnancy pact from the perspective of a teen girl. If you’re at the point of considering making a pregnancy pact there’s no reason to sugar coat reality; you need the facts laid out for you in the form of tough love.
- We are not fully equipped to provide for any kids without depending on the help of the state or living off of relatives until we are deep into our 20s. We can be as optimistic as we like but the fact is that if we’re in high school, still living with a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or cousin because we don’t have the means to provide for ourselves, possibly because we aren’t even of a legal working age yet. Considering we can’t provide for self, we certainly can’t provide for another without being a burden on someone else in order to keep up with the pregnashians. Making that decision in spite of this knowledge is not fair to myself, my child, my family, or society.
- While attempting to become pregnant we’re also putting ourselves at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Knocked up may not be the only thing we get while we forego protection to have a baby. The HIV rate for women in certain areas of the US now rivals African nations and it’s not slowing down. Just because the virus is no longer a death sentence doesn’t mean it’s easy to live with by any means, not to mention it can be passed on to the child, like other infections such as Herpes. It’s selfish to play with our health and the health of our baby in that way.
- Our children’s fathers will not be in our lives forever. High school sweethearts that turn into 40-year marriages are not a dime a dozen. The likelihood that we will be broken up by the end of the school year, let alone the end of our high school career, let alone the end of my nine-month pregnancy term is far greater. Since this still seems to be a trend, it bears emphasizing that a baby will not keep a boy, if anything the feeling of being trapped will push him away even more. In the slight chance that my child’s father will stick around and be a father, his financial means are the same as mine meaning there isn’t much he can do for our baby.