Teen Pacts in Massachusetts School ... for Pregnancy?
Every year there are new student trends or patterns in schools and teachers may understand or may be left scratching their heads in wonder of what’s to come. Trends may be in types of clothing, hairstyles, a different set of words, even what classes will be deemed interesting for that year. A troubling trend began not too many years back with school shootings, making teaching a less safe career choice than it used to be.
Most recently a pact purportedly began in Massachusetts for teenage girls to become pregnant and have their babies to raise together.
A sudden rise in positive pregnancy tests at the health clinic in Gloucester, Massachusetts, left nurses and clinicians suspicious and looking for a reason – they traced tests back to a group of students at the local High School. Apparently, about half of the girls pregnant were a part of this pact made. Although there's yet no definite proof to this information, I've thought a lot about the story.
A troubling part for the nurses delivering the news of the pregnancy for these young girls was seeing their reactions. Nurses said that some of the girls were more excited about the positive pregnancy tests than were with the negative – also a sign that something was happening that wasn’t yet known. Some of the fathers were boys in the school, but one specific case was a 24 year old homeless man that a teenage girl stated she sought out.
I am left with quite a few questions after reading and further researching this story. First and foremost, do these girls understand the commitment that they are signing unto? Having and caring for a child is a major responsibility. Kids cost a lot of money – how are these young women planning to pay for food, clothing, hospital and doctor bills if the kids become ill, medicines if any of these children have a need to take them? Are any of the fathers going to be responsible for payments for these children and their needs? Going to high school and possibly having a part time job doesn’t much allow for the kind of money that raising a child requires.
Second, there is much discussion right now about the legal matters of these teenagers having become pregnant in the first place. In Massachusetts, the law clearly states that it is illegal to have sex with anyone under the age of sixteen. There is not only a legal matter in what the city could charge the boys involved with, but also in what charges the girl’s families could pursue because of the age factor.
Many of the boys involved were students at the high school. If the sex was consensual there could be serious trouble awaiting the boys and major changes to their futures. The mayor has suggested that the boys involved be arrested for statutory rape charges. While the boys fates are still under discussion, it’s not looking good for the 24 year old homeless man whose age is well above that of the other boys.
Additionally, according to the article, The National Center for Health Statistics stated in December that teenage birth rates between the ages of 15 and 17 have risen 3 percent in 2006. If teenage birthrates are on the rise, it’s a good question to ask what exactly has happened to make this rise occur. As always, the media is being thrown a large part of the blame. For instance, one major person in question that the media has followed closely was the young 17-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears (Sister of Britney Spears). If these well-known teens are having a baby, and the media follows this fact so closely, is it showing younger generations that this is realistic and workable?
Do the popular movies that show teenagers having babies suggest that pregnancy or raising children is easy? Another question being asked is if the school’s policy to withhold contraceptives without parental consent is impacting the number of births. This rule led to the school’s doctor and nurse’s resignation from the district as a protest in May, but if this is truly a case of the girls wanting to become pregnant and having a pact to do so, how much would a change in this rule have helped?
Finally, as a personal note, it worries me to think that as a future teacher this is a problem that I may as well face someday. Exactly what would I say to these students and what their decision may mean for their futures? As a professional and a member of the school community, what exactly would I even be allowed to say, if anything, to these students?
Because this school has a nursery to allow students to continue school if the have children, many are questioning whether or not this is a sign for students that it’s sound to plan to become pregnant while in school. The school district has stated that it does not say that to students, but rather points out that even though they have children ,school is important and offers them the opportunity to continue and graduate. While I agree that all students should have the opportunity to finish school I have also had the privilege of working in a nursery and understand that it’s a very limited view of the children and what it takes to care for a child. Working with children and seeing them for a small amount of time is extremely different than having a child and them being your responsibility full time.
Being a teen mom comes with a lot to handle -- for mother and child alike -- as the teenage years are a tumultuous time to continue growing and learning, a time for fun and living (and stress of its own) before moving onto college, a job, etc. When you have a child everything becomes about him or her, and you give up a lot to care for them. Being a teenager can be a hard enough time in and of itself without having to worry about being fully responsible for someone else's life as well.