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Few things get my blood boiling...and this issue is one. Our society needs to place much greater value on mothers, mother's needs, children, and children's needs. The school system should DEFINITELY provide accommodation to the needs of young mothers -- regardless of their personal situation, because few things will cause one to grow up faster than having children and being responsible for the upbringing of little ones. In many cases young mother's do not have the where-with-all to live on their own, let alone raise children of their own. They will often need help and guidance from others in the community. Maintaining an education will often take second priority when adapting to body changes, responsibilities of a newborn and adjusting to a different life, and possibility, a whole new circle of friends. It is wrong to penalize young mothers for doing exactly what human beings do...and that is to make more human beings. It is as natural as the sun and the stars. Options should be made available in the school system to have a leave of absence, to take computer courses to keep up, if desired, to have special tutoring or other avenues to continue learning. Teen pregnancy is a result of a much larger issue than just the school system -- the only way to deal with this is to be there for them and help them through the situation so they can contribute to society and continue education when they are ready. Each person is different and alternatives are necessary.
Yes, the teens need maternity leave, but they should have to be homeschooled or withdraw from school on leave. They should not remain on the enrollment for the classes they are registered in because they are not there. Like in college, when I was pregnant, I had to withdraw to cope to the stresses of being a new mom. It is no different for these teenagers who became pregnant and chose to be teen moms. They can re-enter at the proper time, the next quarter or the next semester, or CHOOSE to be home schooled (if they are seniors). My 3 sisters had to withdraw to attend a school for teen mothers (as they were not allowed to stay at that ancient time) from high school to work on their credits and were allowed to return to finish and DID receive their HS diplomas, much like continuation/alternative schools do now for seniors who lack credits. And don't even bring up the teen fathers' rights to "paternal" leave--that is a reward to have time off...that is another story in itself.
Now here is a perfect opportunity for online learning. While on maternity leave these new mothers could be required to complete a specific unit of their face to face classes. when they return they will not be missing content. If digital divide is a concern, a temporary laptop with wireless access can be sent home with students. Prepared districts will make sure student can handle the basics for using the equipment long before time for their leaves to begin. As for classroom teachers, this may be another way to connect with your students and offer more options for learning regardless of their personal situation.
While it is certainly not what any parent or teacher hopes to encounter, teen pregnancies do happen. The problem is, that only the mothers are blamed and held accountable for it. I can assure you, somewhere, there is a FATHER as well. I am always disgusted when I see the "Star High-School Quarterback" being held in the arms of the entire community while the girl HE got pregnant is being shunned and disregarded. It takes two to tango...an old but BRILLIANT cliche'. Teen pregnancies, as undesired as they are, are a part of life. By continually punishing a young teen who will be paying for the pregnancy the rest of her life, we are not in any way encouraging her to get out from under the current situation and make something more of her life. She is still a human being and she needs encouragement and support from those who supposedly care about her education. Giving her time to recover and recuperate from a pregnancy, while adjusting to the demands of motherhood and the lack of time that will always be too little, will hopefully help the young mother to find the courage, wisdom and dedication that it will take to continue with her education with the hopes of being able to truly provide and care for her new child. Maybe we should be more concerned about encouraging a teen mother to continue her education rather than tearing her down for a choice that she did NOT make alone.
Teen mothers (and their babies) definitely need time to bond, and in my opinion 2 weeks is sufficient. Many districts employ a homebound teacher. I have worked for a district where 6 weeks was allowed and this was too much time. The district I work for now allows no maternity leave, but does provide parenting classes with the school nurse; the absences are treated as any other. Both of those approaches are somewhat flawed.
I honestly had never considered this as a possibility, but it does in fact seem incredibly discriminating to these young women to not offer them any time off.
Having a baby is difficult no matter what age you are! Women especially need time to fully heal and risk seriously injuring themselves. And since teen parents may be more likely to have premature babies, be single parents, and less likely to breastfeed, or have adequate income shouldn't we be supporting them anyway that we can?
It is extremely hard to find daycare for babies under 6 month old, let alone under 3 months. And an often forgotten part of the FMLA laws is to offer equal time to fathers too. So I pose the questions, shouldn't young father's be encouraged to bond with their babies too?
Our school routinely offers the opportunity for 'home-bound' educational services to a teen mother. This involves either on-line work or packet-based work depending upon the situation. A coordinator visits the student on a weekly basis. This may continue for three months, then, depending upon the health of the mother and child, the mother is encouraged to return to school and day-care is provided for the child.
The difficulty, we find, is often that the teen mother doesn't have the commitment to education that the school has in providing it. Our teen mothers often drop out for family reasons other than those related to the child.
Our society, too, needs to emphasize parental responsibility on behalf of the fathers. Often I hear my high school students (male) discuss the children they have fathered. Few of them are from the same mother. Yes, I do protest. That just ensures that they don't talk to or around me.
Not only do we need to support the teen who is pregnant so she can be a good mom, we need to remember that her child deserves to have a chance at a bright future.
The problem is getting teen births down while supporting the future of the new child and mother. Mothers need the bonding time, need the time for their hormones to straighten out and that happens better with their babies. Mothers who come back too soon - as in with work as well- can become so stressed that it compounds so many issues, including probably dropping out.
Mothers need time to refocus, plan, heal, and reinvent themselves as mothers- whether you are 16 or 40. The problem is, how to we keep from making it easier for a teen to have baby than a young adult. With all of these supports in high school, and none later how do we keep teens from thinking this is their best time to have a child. Something has got to change, but I don't believe denying a new mother maternity leave is the answer - don't punish the baby.