Report: Schools lack programs for pregnant students
BY GINNIE GRAHAM World Staff Writer
Monday, September 03, 2012
9/12/12 at 1:49 PM
Read the TitleIX teen mothers report
Equal rights for girls under the federal 1972 Title IX of the Education Amendments isn't just for sports.
It is also for pregnant students and teenage mothers, and a recent national report shows states aren't doing too well meeting this mandate.
The National Women's Law Center released a state-by-state look at what supports and protections are available for young mothers in secondary schools.
"Despite enormous advances for women and girls in education since 1972, schools across the country continue to bar pregnant and parenting students from activities, kick them out of school, pressure them to attend alternative programs, and penalize them for pregnancy-related absences," the report states.
The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit advocates for equality for women and girls using litigation and public policy.
The group cites cases where schools refused to excuse absences for childbirth, teachers not allowing makeup work for pregnancy or child-related absences and not allowing for home-bound services for pregnancy-related illnesses.
"This aspect of Title IX has not received enough attention and discrimination persists around the country," the report states. "A serious public education and enforcement effort is required to root out discrimination against pregnant and parenting students."
Attitude changes after a girl announces her pregnancy are equally troubling, the report states.
Teen mothers report being pressured into less academically rigorous tracks or alternative programs for "at-risk" youth and are subjected to harassment by other students.
"Students report that although some things have changed, the notion that pregnant students are 'bad' or 'lost causes' is alive and well," the report states.
The report found a lack of data regarding the number of mothers or pregnant students in secondary schools and few court decisions on the matter.
Oklahoma finishes on the lower end of the nonprofit's state rankings, receiving a score of .5 out of a possible 10 on an evaluation of state programs for pregnant and parenting students.
Criticisms include a lack of written anti-discrimination policies and home-bound services, and minimal pregnant and parenting programs.
The rate of Oklahoma teen births among 15- to 17-year-olds has been slightly declining, and the rate among 16- to 19-year-olds has been steady or increasing, depending on the county, said Jan Figart, associate director at the Tulsa Community Service Council.
This places Oklahoma fifth in the U.S. for teen births.
"Oklahoma is one of only two states without comprehensive health education," Figart said. "You can go all the way through school and never have a human physiology class and there is no course in school teaching about relationships, unless it's in an elective sociology class."
Figart said a health curriculum involves how to handle relationships, understanding biology and building skills for good decision making.
"Of all the things that are useful in life, and important to address our poverty rate in Oklahoma, is understanding relationships and our health," Figart said. "How is it 48 other states have figured out this is important and we haven't?"
About 13 percent of all births in Oklahoma are to women younger than 19, Figart said. Of those, between 22 percent and 24 percent are to teenagers giving birth to a second or third child.
These families tend to have generations of young mothers who have less education and need social welfare programs, Figart said.
"We have built-in poverty for 30 years," she said. "This is huge and cannot change with abstinence-only programs."
The Community Service Council has a Tulsa Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, which brings together representatives from various organizations to advocate for prevention programs.
"Teen pregnancy is not just a teen issue," Figart said. "Teen pregnancy is an issue for all of us. Yet, as adults we refuse to deal with this. ... All of us pay in social penalties, tax penalties and pay with having incredible poverty in our state. As a result, we will have poverty for generations to come."
- Academically rigorous courses equal to those offered for non-pregnant students and access to the same range of extracurricular and enrichment activities.
- Create a definition of excused absences that includes all pregnancy- and parenting-related absences.
- Develop policies to address discrimination, including a requirement for schools to track non-personally identifiable data on their pregnant and parenting students.
- Requiring schools to offer programs for pregnant and parenting students, including:
- Access to affordable child care, free transportation and coordination with state agencies to register for public benefits.
- Individualized graduation plans based on student assessments.
- Mandated comprehensive sex education.
- Resources for districts to implement programs with funding based on the number of pregnant and parenting students served.
The nonprofit found several cases of discrimination through Freedom of Information requests to the U.S. Office of Civil Rights. The complaints include:
Original Print Headline: Study: Schools lack programs for pregnant students
- A pregnant girl received detention because she could no longer wear her mandated school uniform because of her growing baby bump.
- A girl was not allowed to walk in graduation ceremonies because she had too many absences due to her sick child.
- A pregnant student was not allowed to run in the election for homecoming court.
- A band leader told a pregnant student she was giving the school and the band a "bad image" and would not be allowed to represent the school at a concert in Washington, D.C.
- A student was told that she was not allowed to play basketball because she was pregnant.
- School officials pressured a student to quit her mainstream high school and enroll in an alternative program.
Ginnie Graham 918-581-8376