“I’m proving everyone wrong by graduating this May, by going to college, by getting my degree AND taking care of my daughter.”
That’s what Brianna Miranda, an 18-year-old high school senior from Las Cruces, NM, stood up and said in the New Mexico State Capitol last Tuesday. Brianna, the mother of a two-year-old daughter, faces the same struggle thousands of other pregnant and parenting teens face in New Mexico: graduating from high school.
This week, the ACLU of New Mexico, Young Women United and the Southwest Women’s Law Center brought together Brianna and nearly 50 other young parents and parents-to-be from all over the state at the New Mexico State Capitol. There, they stood up to demand respect, recognition and elimination of educational barriers for pregnant and parenting teens.
40 years ago, Title IX was enacted to ensure that young women and girls would be given equal access to education. Pregnant and parenting teens, however, are a group who are often denied the benefits of Title IX. Only 38 percent of teen mothers nationwide who give birth under the age of 18 earn a high school diploma by age 22. In a state like New Mexico, which has the second highest teen birth rate in the nation, this leaves thousands of young mothers with higher rates of unemployment, lower earning potential and decreased access to health care every year.
But what’s preventing teen parents from graduating?
Pregnant and parenting teens face many barriers to completing their education, including lack of childcare, financial challenges, school attendance policies that penalize teens struggling to take care of their own and their children’s health, and inflexible academic policies that prohibit them from making up missed classwork.
Many schools simply do not take into account or ignore the unique needs of pregnant and parenting teens. In New Mexico, young parents and parents-to-be are demanding that their government give them the respect and support they need to earn their high school diploma while doing the challenging and important work of raising a child.
In conjunction with the rally, the ACLU of New Mexico introduced a memorial bill in the state legislature that would create a government task force to study the educational barriers pregnant and parenting teens face.
This bill fits into the ACLU of New Mexico’s wider campaign to ensure that pregnant and parenting teens are treated fairly in our schools. All Americans deserve a quality education, and we must ensure that we don’t shortchange young parents out of their futures.