The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 400,000 girls between 15 and 19 years old give birth each year. Balancing pregnancy and parenting with schoolwork is challenging, but teens have several options available to help make the task easier. The key is to start thinking about how pregnancy will affect a teen's schoolwork as soon as possible so that there is plenty of time to make all of the necessary arrangements.
Basic Rights of Pregnant Teens
According to the Public Counsel Law Center, pregnant teens have a right to participate in all school activities, including field trips, school dances and graduation ceremonies. They can take part in physical education classes, unless a doctor says they need to limit physical activity. If they have an excused absence, they must be allowed an opportunity to make up any missed assignments. School staff members must respect a teen's right to privacy and not discuss her medical condition with unauthorized individuals or hold the pregnancy against her when writing letters of recommendation for scholarships or other educational opportunities.
Physical Accommodations for Pregnant Teens
The Title IX legislation of 1972 is most often thought of as a way to guarantee equality for female athletes, but the legislation also provides protection for pregnant teens. A school must make reasonable accommodations to help pregnant teens stay in school. This might include being allowed to eat or drink in class to combat morning sickness, being given extra bathroom breaks or having a larger desk added to the classroom once a teen's growing belly makes sitting at a standard-size desk uncomfortable.
Special Programs for Pregnant Teens and Teen Parents
School officials can't make a pregnant teen leave the school district or take part in special parenting classes. However, some schools offer services such as parenting classes, classes on independent living, on-site child care and tutoring assistance to make sure students graduate on time. Participating in special programs for pregnant and parenting students must be voluntary and in addition to regular academic course work.
A teen who is experiencing serious pregnancy complications and is physically unable to attend classes has two options. According to the National Women's Law Center, if the school provides home instruction for temporarily disabled students, a teacher could visit the teen's home to coordinate the completion of all necessary assignments. It may also be possible for a teen to keep up with schoolwork via an independent study program. This is an arrangement in which the student completes work on a flexible schedule, but must check in periodically with an assigned teacher to monitor her progress.
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