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dexterpexter's Journal: Teenage Pregnancy and Truancy 10

Journal by dexterpexter

A 14 year old girl in Pennsylvania joined the ranks of countless teenage mothers; but, instead of throwing her hands up and becoming a leech on society, a stereotypical high school drop-out, or abandoning the child, the girl attempted to continue high school and her part-time job, as well as take responsibility in raising her child. This is quite admirable for a teenager. Now a 16 year old mother of a two year old, the girl maintains dreams of going to college to study Criminal Justice. She is described as an "exceptional student."

The girl's mother is on disability and has four children in total. There is no mention of a father (in either case of the girl or her mother), and one might assume (there are few details on the matter) that the girl's family is not at all well-off, and child care may already be an issue.

There are days when the mother cannot (for one reason or another) or will not (this is unclear) watch the 16 year old's son. There are days when the boy is sick and the girl must take the child to the doctor, and on these days the 16 year old must miss school. This is the rub; the high school is now moving to charge the girl under truancy laws after missing lots of school. It is suggested that the girl is otherwise an "exceptional student" who maintains her grades despite her lack of attendance.

[Under the district] attendance policy, parents are given legal notice of a first truancy offense after three unexcused absences. Additional unexcused days can lead to fines or imprisonment.

However, under Pennsylvania's Compulsory Attendance Law, there is an exception for absences due to mental, physical or "other urgent reasons." ...

In the School District of Philadelphia, for example, students are allowed to miss only four weeks after giving birth before they must return to classes.

The school district officials do not recognize teen parenting as urgent reasons, and this is undoubtedly within their right. There is a standing policy against truancy, and the girl is clearly violating this policy. I suppose one could say that they are under no obligation to make an exception in this case. There is also mention in one article that the girl has "missed 211 days in the last four school years," which is more than a fair amount of school, and also covers two more years than the girl has had a child. However, I am not so ready to condemn this girl.

They have encouraged the girl to pursue home schooling or switch to a Vo-Tech which has day care. I question, however, the wisdom of taking an exceptional student with lofty college dreams, who is otherwise statistically at-risk for being a drop-out, and encouraging them to leave school or move to vocational training. Certainly the latter option will be better than the former; from the description of the girl's mother having four children and not being able to watch the girl's two year old, I doubt she is in a position to provide an adequate education. Also, apologies to those of you who are home schooled or who provide excellent home school care for your children, my experience with friends who received home schooling and clearly spent more time on whimsical pursuits rather than developing a good foundation in the basics and who treated school as a second-thought to their hobbies (or their parents' busy day), I am not impressed with what home schooling sometimes has to offer (recognizing that there are many exceptions), and certainly do not think it a good solution in this case.

That said, I have conflicting thoughts on this. The girl clearly made a mistake and is paying the unfortunate consequences (sometimes life sucks and you do have to live with the consequences of decisions made in youth), and I am very, very wary of lawsuits in which the ACLU quickly jump on the offensive because they haven't proven themselves to have much in the way of discretion. There are clear, laid-out policies in this school district, and the district is enforcing them; it isn't as if they are making these up as they go to punish this particular girl. However, knowing of a nearly unemployable and now-pregnant high school drop-out who is setting herself up to be a leech of society and quite the stereotype, as I look at these girls side-by-side (admittedly my being more familiar with the one than the other, only knowing about one of the girls what the media portrays of her), I see night and day.

Is it wise to put "the Rules" above the good of a student? If the girl is indeed maintaining exceptional grades in spite of a lack of attendance, is she truly being hurt by her truancy (beyond the obvious missing-out on socialization and learning the lesson of having to sit through unnecessary things sometimes just because you have to) enough to justify threatening to take the child away from an otherwise-responsible teenage mother, and is taking her out of school permanently a better solution? And what does that say about the school district itself if, despite such obstacles in this girls education and her missing so many days, that she can maintain her grades? Are there no Churches or special-interest groups in the District willing to step in and help the girl with child care, and help the girl achieve her goals toward which she has worked fairly hard? What sort of influence will taking the girl out of school have on the child, who is now arguably statistically higher at risk for taking a similar path? And then, if she does continue with her high school education and makes it to college, how she plan to handle child care then?

What are your thoughts? I am still not sure what to think.

Quoted or referenced articles can be viewed here:
http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07097/775926-85.stm
http://www.wgal.com/news/11826267/detail.html
http://www.thestatesman.net/page.news.php?clid=8&theme=&usrsess=1&id=153423

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Teenage Pregnancy and Truancy

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  • Charging a person with truancy who is maintaining good grades and not skipping school to cause trouble may be well within the letter of the law, but it is not within the spirit of the law.
    • I agree with the random chick above.
      There is a vast difference between an irresponsible slacker, and someone who is juggling real-world commitments and STILL being an "exceptional" (in the good sense...) student. These officials are missing a little something I like to call "the point."

      Also, I don't know the local district(s), but I would suggest an alternative high school[1] as a realistic option. They are generally very flexible when it comes to kid's outside lives/obligations, and you get a "real diploma
  • To echo what others have said, the district is just being stupid here. This girl clearly faces unusual challenges and should be given the opportunity to succeed.

    Unfortunately the trend in American public schools is to rigidly and thoughtlessly enforce the letter of all school rules no matter how absurd the result. Witness kids who have been expelled for wearing an earring shaped like a dagger and other stupidities brought about by "zero tolerance" policies.

    Such things really seem to be designed to absolve a
  • The school is acitng in bad faith. Good faith is when you provide something intangible above expectations; the school here is acting tangibly below rational expectations in order to follow a rule.

    Funny, they'd recognise is a student had a "bad attitude", but it's typical of authority to fail to see the flip side.

  • Zero-tolerance policies and rigid enforcement of rules are the result of educational organizations that are too large and too out of touch with the communities that they serve. If a bureaucrat gets in trouble, he can always say "It's not my fault, I was just following the rules." Educators tend to be more preoccupied with covering themselves against lawsuits and parental witch hunts than with doing the right thing. And I can't really blame them. Any reporter looking for a scandal, lawyers looking for a
  • They have encouraged the girl to pursue home schooling or switch to a Vo-Tech which has day care. I question, however, the wisdom of taking an exceptional student with lofty college dreams, who is otherwise statistically at-risk for being a drop-out, and encouraging them to leave school or move to vocational training.

    Homeschooling is not leaving school. It is doing school at home.

    Certainly the latter option will be better than the former; from the description of the girl's mother having four children and not being able to watch the girl's two year old, I doubt she is in a position to provide an adequate education. Also, apologies to those of you who are home schooled or who provide excellent home school care for your children, my experience with friends who received home schooling and clearly spent more time on whimsical pursuits rather than developing a good foundation in the basics and who treated school as a second-thought to their hobbies (or their parents' busy day), I am not impressed with what home schooling sometimes has to offer (recognizing that there are many exceptions), and certainly do not think it a good solution in this case.

    I certainly don't think you understand homeschooling very well. :-)

    Homeschooling is not about making school less important, but about making learning MORE important, and more efficient. It is a very good option for people who have busy schedules, as long as they are able to focus on it, and can get the resources they need. She sounds like a very good candidate. Especially if she wants to continue her dream, it may be the only way: she can

    • I somehow missed your comment. I was hoping that you would comment, since you've mentioned homeschooling before.

      Homeschooling is not leaving school. It is doing school at home.

      I apologize; I poorly worded this, and in my ignorance on the subject managed to also confuse myself in the process. I think when the parents or a parent-figure (adult) are dedicated or nurturing, this can be an excellent option. I was unfairly pre-judging the mother as unable to provide a proper education, based on her inabilit

      • by pudge (3605) * Works for Slashdot

        In fairness, I should also note that I ran a robotics workshop for a large group of home school children, all of whom were very, very bright and motivated.

        That's awesome.

        I certainly don't think you understand homeschooling very well. :-)

        I really don't, because I never had an opportunity to experience it first hand. My impressions, as I mentioned, were unfairly coloured by the actions of a few friends, and is probably very wrong.

        I understand, we run into this a lot. I had a dicussion with a former college mate of mine, who came right out and said he did not like homeschooling because the homeschoolers he sees at the university (he works there) all have a very difficult time coping with that environment.

        On the other hand, an older lady at the doctor's office today guessed my daughter was homeschooled, because she was so bright and outgoing.

        What I said to my mate was that he was seeing only one type of homeschooled

        • by jdavidb (449077) *

          Slashdot's even better when you make your own feeds for comments of insightful people you particularly want to listen to. :)

...this is an awesome sight. The entire rebel resistance buried under six million hardbound copies of "The Naked Lunch." - The Firesign Theater

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