Public Policy Recommendation: Ensure Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education


See also: Our summary of Healthy Teen Network Public Policy Recommendations.

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Topic: Pregnant and Parenting Teen Support

Subject: Secondary Education

Recommendation: Require State and Local Educational Agencies to Consider Needs of Pregnant and Parenting Students in their Educational Planning

Congressional Action Request

  • S. Senators: Urge conferees on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization to retain the Senate’s pregnant and parenting students’ provisions in the conferenced bill. Co-sponsor the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (S. 416).
  • S. Representatives: Urge conferees on the ESEA to agree to the Senate’s pregnant and parenting students’ provisions in the conferenced ESEA bill. Introduce a House companion bill to the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (S. 416).

The United States Senate has included pregnant and parenting students (PPS) provisions in the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), its version of Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization. The bill’s PPS provisions require State Educational Agencies to describe in their ESEA Title IA plans how they will provide support to local educational agencies for the education of pregnant and parenting students. Also the bill’s provisions require Local Educational Agencies to describe in their ESEA Title IA plans how they will provide opportunities for the enrollment, attendance, and success of pregnant and parenting students and the services the LEA will provide these students.

The U.S. House of Representatives did not include any provisions specific to pregnant and parenting students in its version of ESEA reauthorization, the Student Success Act (H.R. 5).

Now that both chambers have passed ESEA reauthorization bills, representatives of each chamber will gather in a conference committee to resolve differences between the versions and potentially send a bill to the President for consideration.

 U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) introduced the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (S. 416) in 2015. The Senator has invited his colleagues to co-sponsor the legislation.  The Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act seeks to ensure that each pregnant and parenting student has equal access to the same free, appropriate, high-quality public education that is provided to other students and to improve high school graduation rates, career-readiness, access to postsecondary educational opportunities, and outcomes for pregnant and parenting students and their children.

Why This Matters

Pregnant and parenting teens face many barriers to enrolling, attending, and succeeding in school, such as discrimination, the challenge of juggling schoolwork with parenting, and a lack of access to child care, transportation, and other needed services.

  • Every year in the United States, approximately 614,000 teens get pregnant. Roughly one in four girls in the U.S. get pregnant at least once before age 20.
  • Pregnancy and parenting responsibilities significantly increase a student’s risk of dropping out of school. In a nationwide survey of dropout youth, 33% of female dropouts and almost 20% of male dropouts said that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision to leave school.
  • Only 51% of women who gave birth as a teen have a high school diploma, compared to 89% of women who did not have a teen birth.
  • The dropout crisis experienced by this group of students has severe short- and long-term consequences for the economic success and well-being of their families and communities, as well as our nation. Ensuring the success of pregnant and parenting students matters, not only for them but also for their children, who are more likely to thrive if their parents graduate.
  • Too few states and school districts are using available policy tools – such as case management services, individualized graduation plans for students absent for an extended period due to pregnancy or childbirth, excused absences for students whose children are sick, and accommodation of students’ lactation needs – to reduce barriers that pregnant and parenting students face. See National Women’s Law Center, A Pregnancy Test for Schools: The Impact of Education Laws on Pregnant and Parenting Students (2012).
  • Many pregnant and parenting students are still discriminated against; too few educators and other stakeholders understand how Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (which bans sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities) applies to pregnant and parenting students. (Supporting the Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, U.S. Department of Education (2013)).
  • Consideration of pregnant and parenting student in state and local education plans prompts educational officials to address the unique educational needs of these students, yet permits SEAs and LEAs to determine accommodations appropriate to their education systems, their pregnant and parenting youth student populations, and their community environments.

 Background

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bans sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities. Title IX regulations require that pregnant and parenting students have equal access to schools and activities, that all separate programs for pregnant or parenting students be completely voluntary, and that schools must excuse absences that are due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as is deemed medically necessary by the students physician. Despite Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination, there are schools across the country that continue to bar pregnant and parenting students from school and school activities. The PPS provisions of ESEA reauthorization would assist States and local educational agencies in fulfilling their responsibilities under Title IX. Current federal elementary and secondary education law does not authorize funding to States or local educational agencies for academic or supportive services interventions targeted to pregnant and parenting students.

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Citation: Healthy Teen Network (06 October 2015). Public policy recommendation: Ensure pregnant and parenting student access to education. Baltimore: Author.

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