Since 2015, Students for Life of America’s Pregnant on Campus Initiative has highlighted some of the top “family friendly” colleges and universities in the United States. This year, we are sharing innovative high school programs that are making substantial efforts in supporting pregnant and parenting teens. While we cannot review every available program, we hope that these programs inspire other schools to create more supportive environments for young women who choose life.
DISCRIMINATION AND DISCOURAGEMENT
In Spring 2017, Maddi Runkles bravely shared her story of facing discrimination and harassment as a pregnant high school student at her Christian school. When the Students for Life of America team stepped in to support Maddi, we soon discovered that she was very much not alone. On each of our social media posts, women shared their own stories of the discrimination and harassment that they experienced as pregnant high school students. As we dug deeper, we discovered that this was not an isolated incident. The media has noted that schools nationwide have imposed seemingly unfair challenges to these students, and some have actively discouraged and even barred pregnant and parenting students’ from participating in the classroom and other notable school activities (like graduation). These stories share a small picture of the discouragement and challenges that these young moms face as they try to do what’s best to build a better future for themselves and their children.
- Gloria Malone shared her experiences on the National Women’s Law Center’s webinar, “Title IX and Pregnant and Parenting Students.” She shared how her academic advisor avoided meeting with her to discuss her college applications. She details the common occurrence of “push out” (e.g. when pregnant and parenting teens are encouraged to drop out or transfer to a pregnant and parenting student program even when it’s not in their best interests) and the backlash that pregnant and parenting students receive for choosing to stay in school.
- CBN Compass featured Jessica Mason. The 17-year-old teen mom was informed that infants were no longer allowed to attend graduation. In an email, a teacher told her that there are 200 graduates “and do you think they want a baby at the grad?” Jessica stated: “I wanted to be able to tell my daughter years down the road, ‘You got to watch me graduate, now I get to watch you graduate. If I had known this at the beginning, I wouldn’t have even bought a dress.”
- Think Progress highlighted the plight of pregnant girls abroad, noting that “visibly pregnant schoolgirls in Sierra Leone have been banned from taking the standardized exams required to graduate from primary and secondary school.”
- In May 2015, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detailed the story of Brayona Burt, an 18-year-old teen mom barred from walking at graduation. Her school, Soldan High School, enforced a new attendance requirement for seniors to be allowed to walk at graduation. Brayona had an 89 percent attendance rate and all the credits needed for graduation. The new requirement was 93 percent. Brayona shared: “I’ve pushed and pushed and pushed myself, going to school, going to work as a single mom. I know what I’ve accomplished. But not getting to walk, that makes me feel like less than what I am.”
Unfortunately, these young women represent the very few remain in school and who make it to graduation. The statistics are frightening:
- 38 percent of teen girls who have a child before they turn 18 earn their high school diploma.
- Only about 50 percent of teen moms receive a high school diploma by age 22.
- Between 5 and 10 percent of teen mothers will complete 2 years of a college education, and 2 to 3 percent of teen parents will obtain a college degree by age 30.
- Approximately 90 percent of young women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school.
We encourage efforts to support their continued education and to reduce discrimination and discouragement among peers, school staff, and communities. Small changes in culture and resources greatly benefit these young mothers and father, and by helping these young parents, we also support a more hopeful future for their children.
SOLUTIONS AND CHALLENGES
In the summer of 2017, the SFLA team united with Pennsylvanian pro-life community members to keep Planned Parenthood out of the Reading public schools. While we waited on the verdict of the Planned Parenthood counseling center, we discovered that the school board was also reviewing a proposal for an online distance learning program that would benefit non-traditional students, like pregnant and parenting teens. Proposals like this are exactly the types of solutions that our team encourages schools to consider.
Title IX mandates that alternative programs and schools are comparable to traditional programs. However, pregnant and parenting teen programs have faced criticism for a lack of academic rigor (see here and here). In recent years, some “P-schools” have been forced to close due to “abysmal test scores, poor attendance and inadequate facilities” (see here). These issues certainly need to be addressed to best benefit pregnant and parenting students and to ensure that resources not only meet their parenting needs but continue to challenge them academically.
2017 FAMILY FRIENDLY HIGH SCHOOL LIST
We are encouraged to see that communities nationwide have introduced innovative, holistic programs to support pregnant and parenting students. Here are 8 high school programs that caught our eye this year.
(Please note: This list is in alphabetical order.)
Flagler Palm Coast High School
Flagler Palm Coast High School offers pregnant and parenting students the TAP Program (Teen-Age Parenting Program). The program includes free on-campus childcare, parenting classes, transportation, and more. TAP aims to provide “a holistic education for teen parents involving personal, emotional, and academic integrity.”
Lake County Schools
Lake County Schools’ Teenage Parent (TAP) Program is “a voluntary student support and assistance program designed to provide a specialized parenting curriculum.” Both mothers and fathers can enroll, and special classes are offered in topics like pregnancy health and parenting skills. The program assists students in accessing child care, prenatal and postnatal health services, and social services (e.g. personal and family counseling). Transportation is provided for all eligible students and their children.
Nowell Leadership Academy
Providence and Center Falls, RI
The Nowell Leadership Academy opened in 2013 as “a public charter high school founded to serve pregnant and parenting young adults” (including both young mothers and fathers). The 160 students are ages 15- to 20-years-old and are supported on two campuses. In addition to parenting classes and counseling, the school offers assistance accessing child care and transportation. They boasts a family-like atmosphere and strongly encourage higher education. Nowell Leadership Academy has dramatically improved attendance from 25 percent (2013) to 63 percent (2016), and the school administration is working hard to improve their model.
Northwestern High School
Located in Prince George’s County, MD, Northwestern High School provides a daycare program and parenting classes for their young parents. Their mission is “to help [parenting students] graduate from high school.” While the program is small (with about a dozen participating students), they have achieved an incredible 95 percent graduation rate.
Robert L. Campbell Parenting Center
Robert L. Campbell Parenting Center was established to help parenting teens complete their high school education, while also aiming to reduce repeat pregnancies and to teach parenting skills. The Parenting Center offers an on-campus childcare program for children up to age two. Established in 1992, the Center averages about 12 graduates each year.
Sharon Abrams Teen Parent School
Opened in 1974, the Sharon Abrams Teen Parent School Program at The Maine Children’s Home is “an alternative high school program for pregnant and parenting teens” (both mothers and fathers). The school supports pregnant and parenting teens statewide with parenting resources like case management, prenatal and parenting instruction, counseling, free on-campus childcare, and even a support group for young fathers. After 40 years, the school continues to provide small classes and attentive care to their students.
Simpson Academy for Young Women
This Chicago public school offers a holistic learning environment for pregnant and parenting women in 6th to 12th grade. With a small student body of 40 to 70 students, the school provides an intimate environment for purposeful instruction and support. The school offers a health clinic, Salvation Army daycare center, counseling and referral services, a Healthy Kids Market, and an on-site baby boutique. The school offers traditional high school experiences– like prom, homecoming, and senior activities. Simpson Academy has been described as the “cutting edge” in educational support for pregnant and parenting young women.
Thomas Riley High School
Los Angeles, CA
Thomas Riley High School is “an alternative continuous enrollment school within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) dedicated solely to educating pregnant and parenting teenage women.” Riley is an all-girls program supporting about 160 students from grades 7th through 12th. The school offers a childbirth classes, a flexible classroom structure, academic support, a caring environment.