i, sandwich

by cathyjwilson
Editor’s Pick
MARCH 24, 2011 1:29PM

Expulsion, abandonment not the solution for teen pregnancy

Rate: 6 Flag

I don't understand the "if you put pregnant teens on the streets, it'll teach them a lesson" mentality. In response to a letter to the editor in The Washington Post that discussed what schools can do to reduce teen pregnancy rates, one commenter illustrated that mentality and had this to say:

It is not the place of the schools or of my tax dollars to support "teen moms." Girls who get pregnant should be expelled from public schools as an example. If we'd stop coddling this trash and supporting them with our tax dollars, the problem would solve itself. There's a reason that the problem has gotten worse with the creation of the welfare system.

What great arguments: (1) schools are NOT a place to support children; (2) pregnancy should be punished; (3) pregnancy is on the same level as other reasons for expulsion; (4) helping them get an education is "coddling"; (5) the problem will solve itself if we just throw kids out on the street and ignore them; and (6) the welfare system worsened teen pregnancy, not the fact that teen moms will need to use welfare more when you take away their education and tools for advancement in life.

This mentality never ceases to amaze me. Schools are a place where children need to be supported -- and it's also a place where they should be educated on things like health and sex, but many people still don't want to embrace comprehensive sex education -- people still believe that telling kids not to have sex will be good enough, or if we teach them about it then it'll pollute their minds, and then when they get pregnant because the school system hasn't actually educated them about sex, we punish the students for not knowing any better. There is social culpability there.

The Guttmacher Institute is loaded with statistics about teen sex education and pregnancy. Most teens are taught about abstinence, HIV, and STIs, but one-third aren't taught about contraception. About one-fourth of teens who learned about abstinence didn't learn about birth control. About 86 percent of the drastic drop of teen pregnancy rates since 1990 is because of better contraceptive use. The statistics scream that education about how to properly use contraception leads to results, yet the statistics also show that not all teens are getting that information.

And really, pregnancy should be punished with expulsion? Here's one example of what kids get expelled for, which is pretty characteristic of most schools: bringing a dangerous weapon to school; bringing alcohol or drugs to school; assaulting a school employee; or being charged or convicted with a felony. Really, pregnancy is on the same level as bringing a weapon to school or assaulting someone? Those are activities that are endangering other people at the school -- plus, why should it be within the school's jurisdiction to police premarital sex?

And then we arrive at the welfare system argument. This commenter's desire to restrict teen moms' access to education would leave them without the tools necessary to go to college or get a decent-paying job -- so when she must turn to government assistance, the commenter wants to complain about that, too, even though the reason she needs welfare is because her education was taken away from her. Sounds like the people who want to tell women they can't have abortions and then complain when they need government assistance to raise those babies. If you're going to take away women's choices, don't be surprised when they don't have many options or opportunities to choose from.

Instead of focusing on how much they disagree morally with whatever action (which isn't criminal in the eyes of the law) and wanting to punish them on moral ground using the tools of the state, people need to separate the two and do what's best for the women who are pregnant. And using them "as an example" is not what's best for them -- it's what is best for serving the selfish purpose of people who want to punish them. And for teens who aren't going to know about safe sex unless someone tells them, it's better for them to be prepared and know about contraception. Teens are always taught that abstinence is the only way to 100 percent prevent pregnancy -- but they need to know that if they don't choose to abstain, there are still other ways to prevent pregnancy.

And of course, the one thing lacking from this commenter's assault on pregnant teens is that only the pregnant teens should be expelled -- what about the fathers of these children? Should they be expelled, too? After all, they must've been involved in the act, so shouldn't we be taking away their ability to provide for themselves and advance in society, too? I'm sure it has nothing to do with the double standard that women are shamed for having sex outside of marriage, while men are expected to do so and therefore escape punishment on the "boys will be boys" ticket.

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Well said! I agree that it doesn't make sense to punish pregnant teens by cutting off all access to tools they can use to become productive citizens. I teach at a community college, and many of my students are young or single moms. They're trying to improve their lives and provide stability for their children - and achieve independence from the system. Good point in your last paragraph about the gender double standard.
Whether the fathers are expelled or not, they will have to pay child support.
Very glad you included the last paragraph! It take two to make a baby, but only one of the couple has the "stigma" of getting pregnant. Of course, based on the mind-set of the writer you describe, I'm sure the "trashy" (I still can't get over him using that term...) tempted the father/asked for it.

And Noah - maybe legally the father has to pay child support...in reality, if he's uneducated and unemployed, do you really think he'll have any money to do so?
In most states if he doesn't they'll take away his driver's license. In GA, FL, SC and ME they'll put him in jail - no trial necessary.
As a rule the kids who are the most fidgeting and the most disturbing in the class , tend to be the ones who if channeled properly end up being the most intelligent.

The kick them out of school thing , pregnant, disruptive or otherwise is the "steroids of stupidity".

I was a young parent. Child born as I was graduating.
The garbage my childs mom went through was crazy. She was forced out of regular school and expected to attend "prego school" as we called it. She was with 20-30 other moms who were either throwing up, complaining about their cramps or some other distracting event related to being pregnant.

She hated the seclusion from her friends and supportive teachers she had prior to "showing".
She basically spent several hours a day in prego-social hour, not getting educated.

The conservative ideas that hiding school age pregnancies makes a difference with the education of other students is the same twisted logic that gives you "abstinance only" rather than sex education and Abstinance too.
We as Parents NEVER want our children to have sex too early. remove the "god created the word abstinance" from the idea and it is much more able to be accepted by all.

The end result of the conservative influence on the educational environment only fans the flames of the very things they all seem to hate the most. because they take opportunity from education and stuff it back into the homes, where many parents do not do their jobs and instill the respect that teachers need to teach a classroom full of politically mislead children.
but thats another story completely.
It's a little like saying "I HATE the welfare climate! Let's perpetuate it by creating more people who are in no way equipped to hold jobs because we cut off their access to education!"

It makes no more sense than cutting off access to better contraception because you really hate abortions.

I'm no fan of Teen Pregnancy or "abstinence only" sex ed, But Naked Stupidity REALLY makes me want to scream.

Why don't you work for a feminist organization or something? Also, your birthday is not Dec. 31.
It's 2011. Are we still really having this discussion? How unutterably depressing.
@Mark -- I would love to work for a feminist organization -- too bad my current job is what pays the bills. And thanks for noticing that, it must've defaulted to Dec. 31 when I was updating my profile info.
Hmm ... says the correct birthday in the edit account function, still showing up as Dec. 31 here ... whatever.
i found myself pregnant in my senior yr of highschool. i told one teacher an they advised me to not tell the school. when i asked why they told me if i wanted to b premitted to walk with my class at graduation i needed to keep as much of my pregnancy a secret as possible. i lived in a small town so it made sense at the time to just hide. expelling a young women for creating life isnt right in any sense or condition. pregnant teens need the guidence that is there at school. they need the normalacy not an abropt change tht will throw their lives into a sometimes unrecoverable spiral. i married the man who is my sons father he an i had been dating for 3 yrs previous to me becomeing to pregnant. this yr we will b celebrating our 3rd yr of marrige nxt month. happy endings happen. their just rare.