State Policies Toward Pregnant and Parenting Teens
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is on the rise for the first time since 1991. The report, based on 2006 data, shows that the birth rate for ages 15-19 increased by three percent.
Though there are no federal requirements for schools regarding pregnant and parenting students, some states have enacted policies for these students who are considered at-risk of dropping out of school. The EPE Research Center analyzed these state policies compiled by The National Association of State Boards of Education. Of the 50 states, 20 have policies that address pregnant or parenting students. These policies differ, but all address the academic or health concerns faced by this group of students.
Of the 20 states, only seven have policies that explicitly focus on absence from class. Chronic school absence is an important issue facing today’s pregnant and parenting teens, as many are forced to take extended time off from school for medical reasons concerning themselves or their children.
Thirteen states have policies addressing other areas for pregnant and parenting students. Six states provide funding guidelines for programs designed specifically for these students. Four states prohibit discrimination against any student on the basis of pregnancy or parenthood. West Virginia provides additional food for pregnant or lactating students, while South Dakota allows schools to offer daycare to enrolled students.
With teen pregnancy on the rise, there is much work needed at the state level to not only lower the teen pregnancy rates, but to accommodate pregnant or parenting students. Experts agree that offering policies and initiatives to assist at-risk students may be integral in assuring these students receive a diploma (“The Down Staircase,” Diplomas Count, 2006).