NYCLU Supports Young Bronx Mothers' Call for Adequate Services as City Closes Schools for Pregnant Students

Affiliate: ACLU of New York
June 8, 2007 12:00 am


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NEW YORK – The New York Civil Liberties Union today stood in support of a coalition of Bronx young mothers in their demand that pregnant and parenting students be guaranteed adequate support services after the Department of Education’s decision to close the city’s “pregnancy schools.”

“The Department of Education has a legal obligation to provide pregnant and parenting students with full access to educational opportunities and adequate support services” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “The city’s ‘pregnancy schools’ provided neither – but in closing them the DOE has not solved the problem and may have made it worse. Many regular schools currently push out pregnant and parenting students and fail to provide the educational and social support services they so desperately need. The plan to close the ‘pregnancy schools’ must be accompanied by an aggressive strategy to change the culture hostile to pregnant and parenting students – and a comprehensive plan to build active support systems that will help them stay in or return to regular schools.”

Immediately after the decision to close the schools was announced, the NYCLU expressed concern that the DOE had failed to develop a plan to ensure that pregnant and parenting students are provided with full and equal access to both the educational opportunities and the support services that these students need to succeed. As young mothers and their supporters, led by the organization Sistas on the Rise, stand up for the rights of pregnant students, the NYCLU continues its call for the DOE to create a comprehensive plan to meet the needs of pregnant and parenting teens citywide.

For years the NYCLU has received reports of students being “pushed out” of mainstream high schools that lack the resources or will to support students who choose to continue their education while pregnant or parenting. A 2000 study conducted by the NYCLU found that a number of city schools routinely and unlawfully denied enrollment to pregnant students, or forced students to transfer to “pregnancy schools,” as their pregnancies progressed. An internal study by the city has acknowledged this problem, as well as problems of poor academic standards and low attendance, in these schools.

The NYCLU noted that the city’s “pregnancy schools,” while deeply flawed both as a legal matter and educationally, have provided some young women with access to parenting classes, prenatal care, child care and assistance with public benefits. Students should have access to training from social workers and counselors as well as the opportunity to attend schools that provide support services and nurturing atmospheres.

Federal regulations clearly prohibit discrimination based on marital or parenting status, stating that students shall not be denied access to educational programs “on the basis of such student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.”

“The DOE must support students’ decisions to continue their education both during their pregnancies and after they have children by providing them with adequate services and by training school personnel,” said Galen Sherwin, Director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project. “Otherwise, these students will continue to be forced into inferior educational facilities, or to drop out of the public education system altogether. The NYCLU echoes the calls of parenting students across the city for the DOE to create a comprehensive strategy to guarantee that all students are fully supported, regardless of parenting status.”

The NYCLU’s 2006 testimony before the New York City’s Citywide Council on High Schools on the treatment of pregnant and parenting teens in city high schools is available online at www.nyclu.org/pdfs/pregnant_and_parenting_teens_testimony.pdf

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