When a young girl becomes pregnant, you want to help her to deliver a healthy baby. You want to provide options: adoption, or raising the child with assistance.
You want her to feel love and acceptance, not shame, for having made a difficult decision–for choosing Life. But….
Do you want to celebrate the pregnancy, potentially encouraging other young girls to engage in premarital sexual activity? Does public acceptance serve to glamorize a life-changing mistake?
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A high school in Mesa, Arizona has chosen to honor the high school-age girls who are mothers, congratulating them for successfully juggling motherhood and academic studies; and some parents and students are not happy about it.
AZ Central reports that pages 40 and 41 of the Mesa High School’s 255-page yearbook, Superstition Vol. 105, are devoted to students who have children or who are expectant parents. The pages, titled “I’m Working a Double Shift,” applaud the young women for handling the responsibility of raising children while attending school.
One of the photos which has sparked the most criticism shows a high school boy embracing the belly of a female high school student.
Since the yearbook was published, school principal Jim Souder has received angry calls from parents, questioning the wisdom of including photos of expectant students and student parents along with images of students who had won awards or served in school clubs.
According to AZ Central:
Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands said the photos are not what the school district expects from high school yearbooks.
“A yearbook is to commemorate the achievements of the students, particularly the senior class,” she said. “Probably this would not fall into that category.”
Joanna Allhands, columnist for AZ Central, wrote an editorial about what those Mesa yearbook pages forgot to mention. According to Joanna:
Long ago our society chose wisely to remove the primeval stigma from teen childbearing and bring pregnant girls back into sunlight. No longer are they turned leperlike from the colony and denied an education. This is a good thing.
But featuring pregnant teens in a two-page spread of photos glamorizing a life-altering mistake risks normalizing dysfunction.
Here’s what those pages don’t depict: The overwhelming odds that teen parents will:
• Be less likely to finish school.
• More likely to turn to welfare.
• More likely to live in poverty as adults.
• And more likely to have children who face significant behavioral and health problems.
All of these bullet points are sirens sounded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and we can’t help but hear them as Mesa High School tries to normalize teen pregnancy as if it were another activity, like chess club.
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So, SEASONS OF GRACE Readers, what do you think?
How do you balance the competing goals of respecting the girl–not shaming her, but helping her to develop the skills she’ll need to successfully mother her child–yet not turn her into a class “hero”?
How do you welcome the newborn, while at the same time encouraging other girls to focus on their studies and to wait until they’re older and married to become pregnant?