We all know teen pregnancy is a serious issue in our society, and many young people drop out of school because they can’t meet the demands of parenting, studying and supporting a family. Very few earn their diploma after delivery, and those that do should be congratulated.
But should they be highlighted in their high school yearbooks?
That issue was raised a couple of weeks ago when parents and students at Arizona’s Mesa High School discovered a teen parent section in their yearbook. The section, ““I’m Working a Double Shift,” highlighted teens posing with their children and talking about the challenges of balancing parenting with academics.
Many parents felt the section was inappropriate, and several students felt the attention took away from the accomplishments of other teens who overcame difficult situations or attained other noteworthy achievements.
The chief concern among parents was that the spread glamorized teen pregnancy, especially in light of the fact that Arizona ranks #15 in the nation for its teen pregnancy rate. In response to the negative feedback, the Mesa Public Schools released a statement that seemed to gloss over parents’ concerns.
“Yearbooks are an opportunity to commemorate students’ school activities and achievements. The subject matter portrayed on several pages in the student life section of the Mesa High School yearbook reflects choices made outside the school environment. The students depicted are fully supported in their academic endeavors by the school and district.”
A North Carolina school didn’t view teen pregnancy as a school activity or achievement in 2013. Seniors at Wheatemore High School were told to pose for their yearbook photos with something that represents them or an accomplishment. Musicians posed with instruments, athletes posed with sports gear, and Kaitlin Tiller posed with her infant son. A few days before the yearbook was to be released, Tiller said school officials told her the photo was pulled because it promoted teen pregnancy.
Like it or not, some teens will become parents, and while schools certainly don’t promote parenthood at such a young age, yearbooks that feature photos of babies along with sports, honor rolls and clubs seem to condone teen pregnancy as just another part of high school life.
Yes, these teen parents are working hard, and yes, they deserve support. So does the boy who’s working nights to support his younger brother and the girl who’s studying six hours every night so she can be the first person in her family to go to college — but these kids rarely get yearbook sections that highlight their lives. And they should.
Maybe it’s best we keep high school yearbooks focused on the students who actually attend the school. The babies are cute, but they‘ll get their own high school yearbook in about 15 years.
Originally appeared on Fox News Latino, 6-3-14