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Teen Pregnancy and High School Drop out Prevention

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Teenage pregnancy is affecting the graduation rate in high schools. All over the nation the dropout rate of students is increasing, of which teen pregnancy is often a factor. "Approximately 1,000 high school students will drop out with each hour that passes in a school day in America. This means that 30 percent of the class of 2007, or 1.2 million students, were estimated to have dropped out last year" (National Women's Law Center, 2007). Many factors combine to affect a pregnant or parenting teen's decision to drop out of high school. This paper will discuss these factors, the statistics and history of teen pregnancy, strengths and needs of this population and finally an intervention plan will be proposed based on past evidence to help teen mothers graduate high school.

Over the years, schools and districts printed false or incorrect graduation rates, and as a result, the American public knew little of the possibility and seriousness of the problems faced by far too many of the nation's high schools. Reputable research has uncovered alarmingly low graduation rates that were previously hidden behind incorrect calculations and inadequate data. Between 2007 and 2008, the State Event Dropout rate of Arizona's was 6.7% (Chapman, Laird & KewalRamani, 2010). Policies regarding teen mothers have been lost in the education system and people aren't aware there even is a policy. "...Under Title IX, passed in 1972 and implemented in 1975, public schools are explicitly charged with providing equal educational access and opportunity to pregnant and mothering students" (Pillow, 2006). Sometimes even the slightest forms of discrimination can be enough to drive pregnant teens out of school. They come in the form of schools refusing to allow excused absences when a teen has a doctor's appointment related to pregnancy or teachers not allowing make-up work to be completed. Sometimes counselors convince pregnant teens to move to substandard alternative schools or do not allow them to participate in school activities based on disparaging, discouraging and disapproving comments from teachers and students. This can be illegal due to Title XI and contribute to the high dropout rates.

In the past people did not worry about teen pregnancy as long as they were married before they had their child. It was encouraged for young couples to get married and have a family at a young age. School was not as important as starting a family. By the 1900's people started to put education before early marriages. When the Great Depression occurred, marriages and teen pregnancies began to rise again causing a decrease in education (Lindenmeyer, 2008). If a teen was seen pregnant in school the family was shunned or extremely embarrassed. Families would take their pregnant daughter out of school for the year. Families hid the fact that their daughters were pregnant out of wedlock. They would send them to special schools or home school them until the baby was born. Sometimes they would go back and finish school and other times they would drop out in order to help support the family.

A teen that dropouts of high school significantly reduces their chances to secure a good job and a promising future. In 2006, it was estimated that adult women without a high school diploma earned only $15,500 per year. This is $6,000 less annually than women with a high school diploma (National Women's Law Center, 2007). Moreover, not only do the individuals themselves suffer, but the children of parenting teenagers suffer as well. Often, young women are left to raise a baby on their own, without the father and many times without any financial aid. This leads to more women who rely on the welfare system, which is funded by taxpayers. Each class of dropouts is responsible for financial and social costs to the communities and states in which they live, so a lack of financial contribution affects the economy.

Teenagers also lack the sex education information they need. Schools do not allow sex education to be taught without parent approval and parents do not believe it is appropriate to discuss in school, yet they do not discuss it at home either. Teenagers are not educated about the dangers of engaging in sexual activity, which does lead to teen pregnancy. Providing comprehensive sexual education does not increase the likelihood that kids will have sex (Males, 1993). It will only give them the chance to make a better decision and know their options. Once teen pregnancy occurs, their lives change and the female rarely continues with her education. Teen mothers do not realize they can meet the same educational goals they had prior but it might take a little longer (Lopez-Dawson, 2000). Girls, who leave because they become pregnant, report that they would have continued with their education if they had received greater support from the educators in the school (Lopez-Dawson, 2000). Teen mothers do not know their options and do not know where else to turn. They end up dropping out and getting their GED because they are not told of any other options. Everyone needs to be educated and learn other resources that might be out there.

There are many strengths and needs of the teen mothers who have dropped out of high school. Their strengths include resiliency and being a parent. Many teen mothers have had difficult childhoods and have survived many struggles. Overall, 84% of teen pregnancies are unintended and since they have overcome many hardships, this is just another obstacle (Sheaff & Talashek, 1995). Hopefully, teen mothers will see a new beginning in their new role as a mother and in their child and will work to be a good parent, even if they do not complete high school. Another strength is that they are in fact a parent. Whether larger society approves of teen parenting or not, they are parents and raising part of our future generation. According to the NASW Code of Ethics, social workers need to respect a person for whom they are and this will in turn help build the teen mother's self-esteem (2008). It is important to recognize this and treat teen mothers like any other parent and count their child as a blessing and a future contribution to society.

There are numerous specific needs of this population in regards to finishing high school that can be identified through their most common struggles. Only 2% of teen mothers earn a college degree by age 30 (Albert, 2010). This can be understood through reasons why teen mothers do not complete their high school education. According to Lall (2007) many teen moms leave school due to peer pressure. Other teenagers may not accept the teen parent and ridicule them, which may cause them to self-exclude and eventually leave school. Parenting teens may also leave school due to health and safety reasons (Lall, 2007). Pregnant women are seen as a liability by the school



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