Monday, January 07, 2008

Maternity Leave For High School Students

Some in Denver are promoting this idea.

Teen mothers-to-be attending a Denver high school are asking for at least four weeks maternity leave, saying they don't want to be penalized for absences while healing and bonding with their new babies, The Denver Post reports.

Maybe, if you get pregnant in high school, and you want to take time off to bond with your child, you graduate a bit late. That's not punishment or penalizing, that's a natural result of actions you've taken. At the very least, if you want to take several weeks off school, you should go on a home/hospital-type program or perhaps online classes (assuming those programs exist in Colorado).

Giving new mothers "unexcused absences" for staying home with newborns seems ridiculous--"health" reasons, similar to an extended illness, would seem more reasonable. But the solution isn't to build in more time for the girls to miss school, but to explore alternatives (I listed three above) that allow them to be good mothers and good students. How can you miss a fourth of a semester and still learn what you should? This attitude treats a high school diploma as a commodity that's owed rather than as an accomplishment to be earned.

I've taught mothers--both were 8th graders. One was a diligent student who wanted to do her best so she could have a shot at raising her child well (I don't know where dad was). The other spent her time at school telling the other girls how best to perform oral sex so as to satisfy their boyfriends (her own mother worked nights so she could raise the grandchild while the mother/student was at school). The point here is there's a good way and a bad way to deal with being such a young parent--one way is to work hard, the other is to treat the situation as one in which everyone can owe you. Guess which one I support.

And it isn't giving a girl a pass on her education because she got pregnant.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

In the school district where I teach, a teacher must return to the job 48 hrs. after giving birth (5 days if she has a c-section). If the teacher wants to stay home longer, she must burn all of her sick leave (assuming she has some built up), or stay home without pay. I find this policy ridiculous, especially as my husband, who works for the county, got 6 weeks paternity leave. I find it even more ridiculous that a school district would allow its students to miss 4 weeks of school with no repercussions.

Fake said...

I never quite understood the idea of having a set amount of sicktime. Either you are sick, or you are not.

But on the issue of the students being ill, maybe the problem lies in the US system of a pass/fail high school graduation. In the UK, you take exams (which aren't just exams, but coursework and the like) in each subject. That way, you either show that you know the stuff or you dont know the stuff in each subject, and can even show where you have strengths and weaknesses. For instance, someone might be excellent at Science and get an A* while they are rubbish at French and only get a D..

rightwingprof said...

When I was in high school, unmarried girls who got pregnant were expelled. Times change, I suppose, just not necessarily for the better.

Ellen K said...

It's really hard for me to side one way or the other. On one hand, girls who don't graduate often become burdens on society. On the other hand, every other kid, with the exception of kids with life threatening illnesses, has to attend 90% of the days in order to get credit for the course. The only pregnant girls I had were too busy partying and trying to scam a wedding out of their boyfriends to bother with something as mundane as school. I suppose there are those girls out there who try to be mothers, work and stay in school, but I am pretty sure they are the exception to the rule. The girl I had this year, transferred before her due date, thank heavens, because she looked like she would have the child any day and I really didn't want to have to deal with explaining to her that her water had broken-or to the rest of the class either.

Darren said...

EllenK,

Please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying the girls shouldn't graduate, I'm saying that their pregnancy throws enough of a monkeywrench into the pipes that they might not graduate in June of the year they originally (in kindergarten) expected to.

Ellen K said...

That's true. Hey, if kids who are out for mono or a broken leg or any other thing have to make up the days, then pregnancy shouldn't be an excuse. Funny how some people want everything to be exactly equal until it comes down to their situation.

nick said...

This is ridiculous, and I can't even imagine a very developed argument for the other side on this one. Everything else has really already been said, but if the girl is reckless enough to get pregnant in high school, she shouldn't be allowed any extra days to "bond" with the baby. That shouldn't even be a possibility.

Donalbain said...

Rightwingprof:

Ahhh yes, the good old days! Lets go back to that system. That way we can have unmarried mothers who are completely unable to get a decent job and thus act as a burden on the rest of society!

And meanwhile, boys can go around fucking the girls with impunity!

Darren said...

Let's try to keep the language clean, please.

rightwingprof said...

I see at least one person missed the point, so I'll be a bit more monosyllabic. Social stigmas to a large extent prevent bad behavior. If you don't want unmarried girls of 13 to get pregnant, the only way to do it is to bring back the social stigma. School isn't necessarily the best place to do it, as Ellen pointed out, but it badly needs to be done in the larger society. As for the poor girls who can't get jobs, they have to bear the consequences for their actions.

Donalbain said...

No. Social stigmas dont prevent bad behaviour. As you said, in "your day" girls got pregnant, but were excluded from school.
And I have to say that I think it is fascinating that you seem to imagine that only the GIRLS took part in the action. Last I checked, sex involved two people, and if there was pregnancy, then at least one of the people is a male. But yes. Lets punish those girls. They are to blame. Men are just unthinking penises!

Donalbain said...

Also, if you are going to be patronising, you can't be "more monosyllabic", you are either monosyllabic or you arent.

Ellen K said...

I have actually thought about this for a long time. Every time I see another "mommy's boyfriend" story in relation to abuse or child murder, I cringe. Most people in society are ignorant of how children develop. I think we should require all high school students to take a child development course including a two week stint as a daycare leader. Furthermore, if we offered on-site daycare to teachers and staff, we would keep more young teachers from quitting to raise families AND we would be providing jobs, training and educational opportunities for these teenage moms to be. I really think this could work. I just wish that the insurance companies would take the risk to make it happen.

Dr Pezz said...

Isn't education really about what you know and what you can do? If the girl is pregnant, numerous means are available to help her stay current: e-mail, the internet, calling the teacher, coming in once a week, and so on. Avenues can be taken to remain successful.

In my experience, absences have not generally been the real problem regardless of the reason; it's the lack of making up the work and not getting the material upon returning that is the problem.

P.S. Only punishing the girl seems gender-biased at best.

Darren said...

I'd agree. If the boys missed that much school, they shouldn't pass either.

Donalbain said...

I think the "punishing the girls" remark was in reference to rightwingprof's ode to the old days, where fallen women were excluded from society, while the men got off scott free

MrBaseball34 said...

The solution to this is two-fold. You have to make it so that the social stigma of being pregnant is HS is bad enough that students will take precautions. You also need to get rid of the damn federal funding requirements for teaching "abstinence".

The second part of the solution would be to segregate those that became pregnant as to not "glorify" the problem.

Where I went to HS, they had a house across the street where the pregnant girls went, continued their studies and stayed out of school a very minimum amount of time. They received regular schooling as well as schooling on child care and family studies.

Most of them went on to get their diplomas and even some went on to college and they all said it was because of the help they received in that program that they would not have gotten had they stayed in regular school.

rightwingprof said...

"Social stigmas dont prevent bad behaviour."

Yes, they do, as I said, to a large extent. We have many, many more unmarried girls getting pregnant now than we did forty years ago -- and it's because there is no stigma attached now. As for monosyllabic, I know of no stylesheet that states that it's not a gradable adjective, then, if I couldn't use an apostrophe, I wouldn't be criticizing someone else's use of adjectives.

For you youngsters, there was a great deal of negative social stigma attached to the father in such instances, but only if the father were known -- so much that a marriage resulted. And you were not allowed in high school if you were married.

Screwing anything that moves without fear of social disapproval or consequences isn't progress. It's barbarism.

Donalbain said...

Mono means single or one. You either HAVE one syllable or you have many (poly) syllables. There is no grey area in between. Simple really.

And your cause and effect analysis is interesting. Oh wait. There was no analysis. You just made the claim without supporting it.

Ellen K said...

Another whole issue is the safety of the student in the general population of the average high school. Just on communicable diseases and accidents, I would think it would be unhealthy. But then you have kids jostling on the stairs, running around, wearing stilt high heels. It's simply not safe. And that doesn't even begin to touch on the idea that most teen pregnancies are considered high risk and most teens do NOT know how to care for themselves adequately to recognize serious symptoms like swelling, sharp pains or headaches. For teachers, it's a nightmare. I have had a few girls who are pregnant-in fact I think I have one now who is hiding it-and the poor things are usually young, poor, desperate to leave home and be rescued, and just naive enough to think a teenage boy will help them. It's sad no matter what side you are on.

EHT said...

As the mother of a 15 year old girl and as a teacher I realize there are more than enough avenues to finish school that exist for girls who find themselves in the family way such as the ones in Darren's post.

Kids need to realize that when their knickers come off they are making a choice. They are choosing the possibility of becoming a parent....and with that come a totally new set of consequences and responsibilities. One of the consequences is they may have to finish school a year later than they should have. Is that such a terrible thing? If the desire is there they will do the necessary coursework in any way they can,and for those who don't have the desire it won't matter one way or the other if they have four weeks off from school or not.

I'm totally against any leave time as the proposal suggests...if they truly are about choosing an education they will choose night, online, or other types of options that already exist.

loonyhiker said...

I have taught pregnant teens and have told them they are expected to meet the same requirements as the other students. I explained that they chose this situation (when they chose to have sex) so I would not make any exceptions that other "sick" students have. I have to be fair to all of my students which I feel I am by stating this. My pregnant girls have the option of going to the Teen Parent program until after they have their baby.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what the problem with allowing new mothers leave unless the goal is to punish them for a choice, that was frankly none of our business. We tell our students over and over again that school is their job, that they should treat it as such. If we require employers to give 12 weeks of leave to new mothers, how can we deny our students a few precious weeks for critical bonding with their child as well as the time to make choices that are best for their babies? If they can master the material enough to show proficiency we are not in the position to discriminate against them. We should be cheering them on for their perseverance.
The young mothers that I have taught (quite a few) have been among the most serious and dedicated students in my classroom, most of whom also are working full timeto support themselves and their babies- most often with no support from the father.
If you wish to judge young women for their choices you may do so, however our role as educators is to teach the students who arrive in our classroom. A girl's right to an equal education does not end the moment she looses her virginity or conceives a child. A teen mother's life will be hard enough without discrimination at school.

Darren said...

It speaks volumes about you that you think I'm judging a person based on my views, especially given the first full paragraph that I wrote in the post.

Of course, I guess it's possible you weren't addressing your comment to me but to another commenter, in which case it would have made sense to address that commenter by name.