Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The shaming/ punishing of pregnant teens

Recently a charter school in Louisiana came under fire for their policy regarding teen pregnancy. They were going to (they repealed the policy) required any girl suspected of pregnancy to take a pregnancy test and refusal was seen as admission of pregnancy. Apparently pregnancy is not "in keeping with the school’s goals and objectives relative to character development" as stated in the schools handbook. Thus young pregnant slutty, amoral girls must be banished to home education programs or leave school completely.

Before I get to my thoughts on the removal pregnant students from school lets first go over what this school was really asking to do. They wanted to demand a teenager submit to a medical test AT SCHOOL, with no HIPPA protection apparently.  If the teenager simply feels this is a violation of her privacy or person she is then deemed to be pregnant and kicked out of school! If she does take the test and its positive she is kicked out of basically outing her situation to the entire school community. What if she didn't want them to know? What if she was raped or abused? What if she is planning on seeking an abortion and wanted to keep this between her family and God? Never mind all that, the teachers and staff at Dehli Charter School know what is best for this teens future.

As a homeschooler and doula I firmly believe homeschooling can be a viable option for a pregnant teen who is experiencing a difficult pregnancy. However, to force medical testing on young women and then force them out of school against their (and their parents) will to a home education environment is vile.Somehow in this schools policy there is no punishment for sexually active young men who impregnant young women. No request for paternity testing so they can kick him out as well. It is premised on a belief that "sluttiness" and immorality is catching and teen pregnancy needs to be punished.   These are backwards outdated beliefs. For all the years we enforced these codes of conduct as a nation teen births did not stop. Instead they happened ending in secret adoptions, shotgun weddings, or the social shame of single motherhood. 

Let's have some have facts. The teen pregnancy rate is the lowest its been in 30 years. So we are not in some code red emergency status level that some would have you believe. Yes teen pregnancy happens but in steadily declining numbers. This is not due to the other myth that teen girls are running out in droves getting abortions either since only 30% of teens choose to terminate their pregnancies.  In states that are requiring comprehensive sex education in schools, like New Hampshire, they are showing the lowest numbers of teen pregnancies. Compared with conservative states where abstinence only is the standard and teen pregnancy tends to be the highest. Like Louisiana where the teen birth rate is 6th  in the nation choose to keep offering teens abstinence only sex education or none at all and allowing schools to come up with policies such as these.

Teen parents don't need public shaming. I could tell tons of stories of how people told me that myself and my children would be nothing because I became a mom at 16. I often found it many of these people were "pro-life" just not pro-poor women raising their own kids. If we really want to address and curb teen pregnancy then we need to get honest with ourselves about sex and sexuality so we can be honest with our kids. We can't stop teen pregnancy when we think vagina is a dirty word and that telling kids about condoms will make them have sex. Clearly saying "just say no" hasn't worked either. There is mentoring and female empowerment programs. There are many ways to curb teen pregnancy but shaming and punishing young women is NOT the way.