Maternity leave ... from math class?

Denver school board considers family-friendlier policy for pregnant students.

By Lynn Harris
January 9, 2008 7:48PM (UTC)
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A recent article in the Denver Post has set the blogs abuzz with colorful terms such as "careless skanks." According to the piece, which at press time remained the most commented on at, two counselors and several students at Denver's East High School have requested a change in policy that would grant new mothers four weeks of academic maternity leave. Under the current policy -- which is set school by school -- a student mother's absence is considered "unexcused" if she does not return to school the day after she leaves the hospital. So much for that A in breast-feeding.

"My initial reaction is if we are punishing girls like that, that is unacceptable," Nicole Head, one of the counselors, told the Post. "We've got to do something."


Denver, it should be noted, has one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in the state, according to the Post. The city has a school for pregnant teens and new moms, but there's a waiting list. Other counties and districts have childcare services and programs that allow students to devise plans to stay in school or receive high school credit. School administrators are said -- at least -- to be reviewing East's policy to make it "friendlier."

Reaction to the story online: not so friendly. Some of the kinder commenters, perhaps predictably, suggested that the prospect of four weeks' "vacation" would only "incentivize" teen pregnancy -- and that if these girls are "irresponsible" enough to get pregnant, the school should not "institutionalize [its] approval," but rather force them to face the "consequences."

Right. Because teen motherhood is easier than school, and because a baby is not a "consequence." And because (what may amount to) showing young mothers the school door will help break the complex, multifaceted teen pregnancy cycle.


Meanwhile, over here in real life is one thing (among many) that might: Colorado has rejected $488,000 from the federal government to fund programs that teach abstinence-only sex education. A new state law requires schools that teach sex ed (many already do, and comprehensively so) to include accurate information about contraceptives.

Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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