A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Should teen mothers be held to truancy standards?

Well, here's an interesting dilemma:
A 16-year-old student who claims in a lawsuit that her school district discriminated against her because she is a teen mother has missed 211 days of school over the last four years, according to officials in the Harrisburg area school district.

That was the number given by the Central Dauphin School District in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion was filed Thursday in federal court.

The girl, identified in her lawsuit only as A.C., claims that the school district discriminates against her because she is a teen mother. She has asked the court to stop the district from pursuing truancy charges against her and her mother, identified in the lawsuit as C.B.

Instead, the girl claims that her absences should be excused because she takes them only when she needs to take her son, now 2, to the doctor, or because she doesn't have available child care.

But according to school district records, A.C. has shown "a pattern of absenteeism even prior to her pregnancy or birth of the child."

For instance, the defendants claim A.C. missed 37 days of school in the 2002-03 school year -- before she became pregnant. The next year, she missed 42 days.

In 2004-05, the year her son was born, A.C. missed 1001/2 days, including 17 that were unexcused, the district contends.

The school district filed truancy charges against A.C. four times and against her mother five times.

Somehow, I think there are some confused priorities here. This young woman has a child for which she is responsible. At the very least, doesn't she owe him an educated mother who can provide the minimum of support? I have a young lady this year who demonstrates very similar patterns in terms of attendance. There are very few students who can manage to learn anything in class when they are not actually in class. My student will probably have her credits revoked in a hearing in a few weeks-- although it's already a done deal, becuase she is not actually passing any classes. And our school district actually provides day-care for our students.

So what's important here: the education or the credential? Are schools just drop-in centers, and are state laws regarding attendance just unnecessary hindrances? Like it or not, this young lady still has not learned that there are consequences for her actions.

If taking care of her son makes school attendance impossible, perhaps she should try to get her GED and move on to the next stage of her life.

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At 4/14/07, 3:29 PM, Blogger NYC Educator said...

Missing 50 school days a year is good preparation for missing 50 work days a year. It's hard to accept that.

The GED sounds like a good option if, for whatever reason, the kid is too busy to attend high school. Though it's tough to imagine what she'll follow up with, since she's clearly too busy to attend community college or work.

Perhaps she'll work something out if her lawsuit fails. I'm not one of those "survival of the fittest" types, but if you choose to bear a child at that age (or any age, in fact), there are consequences.

At 4/14/07, 5:30 PM, Blogger Mrs. Bluebird said...

Considering I just learned that one of my former students had a baby this week - at 15 - this was a timely post. Our district doesn't, do my knowledge, provide child care, but they are implementing some new programs, including on-line courses, for those kids who can't seem to function in high school.

However, I like what NYC educator said - missing 50 days of school a year is good prep for missing 50 work days a year. She looks like someone who'll be on the welfare rolls for life...as well her child.


At 4/14/07, 9:56 PM, Blogger Politically Homeless said...

If she missed 200 days of work over a four year period..well, she wouldn't ever have the chance to miss that many days without being fired.

She can't be taught if she isn't there. Our district has a school for teenage mothers, but slots are few and demand is great.

In this state she can drop out at 16 with parental permission. She shouldn't continue the charade if she isn't going to be able to attend on a regular basis.

At 4/14/07, 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, Ms. C! You've hit on it beautifully. But let's take a step back and ask a question: Should we have mandatory attendance laws in the first place?

Proposition: Education is at least a 50/50 matter. The school provides their 50%: The opportunity, in terms of teachers, facilities, supplies and support, for a basic K-12 education. The student provides their 50%: Taking full advantage of the other 50%. A parent's job is to ensure that their offspring takes full advantage of their opportunities because adults recognize that children don't always do what is good for them or think more than 10 seconds into the future.

If this proposition is correct, we don't care if Johnny or Suzy don't show up. Educators are, each and every day, providing the opportunity, but there are no excuses, no whining. As long as the opportunity is there, it's up to the kids and students to decide to put out their 50%.

Will those who are doing their part miss the kids who won't? No, and the school climate will be immeasurably improved by the absence of those who don't want to be there and are determined to make life hard for those who do.

I know. Impractical. We can't allow anyone to face the consequences of their own horrendously irresponsible and dirt-dumb choices. Sigh.

At 4/15/07, 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh god, oh dear god. they are talking mandatory age here N of 60.
Clarity is upon me. You are our 'Mary-had-a-little-lamb'. We follow. Excuse me while I go check out the classifieds.

At 4/15/07, 9:11 AM, Blogger Janet said...

I agree that missing so much of school and allowing her to do that is only setting her up for failure in real life. I have a student in my class right now whose in danger of failing for the year because she's never there. I understand that sometimes these things are out of our control, but bottom line is you need to know the material. A GED sounds like a good option here, imo.

At 4/15/07, 9:46 AM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Absolutely right, NYC.

The ultimate question is this: What do we as educators "owe" this young lady? Because there is obviously an attitude of entitlement and a belief-- nay, a demand-- that expectations should be not applied.

Is it possible any longer to be on welfare for the rest of one's life? I didn't think so....

Here's my frustration: what purpose does it serve for her to claim that she is not truant? She's not bothering to go to school, she's a teen mother who has maybe a ninth grade education, if that, and she obviously has no plans for the future besides, "Let's see if I can make some quick cash off the school district which I occasionally visit."

I'm sorry, but I am not going to act like teenage pregnancy is okay. It is almost always detrimental to the children who are born to these teen mothers. You and I all know that, in all probability, in 4 years her son will enter the school system unable to recognize letters or colors or shapes. He will probably never have owned a book. It all goes back to how little his family values an education.

And let me point out that this district actually EXCUSED 83 absences of hers in the year she had her child.

And the "mandatory attendance" issue is one I have contemplated a lot. I'm still unsure how I feel about it. If there were no mandatory attendance laws, how would districts know how may teachers and classrooms they would need? How would society absorb those who are even more uneducated than what the system produces now? On the other hand, what a dream not to have to deal with the kids who are just at school to hang out and who detract from the focus on learning.

I've got no answers. I'm still contemplating.

At 4/15/07, 4:51 PM, Blogger Ms. Q said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 4/15/07, 4:53 PM, Blogger Ms. Q said...

This is something I am currently dealing with right now. 2 of my bright young ladies are in this situation. I came from this situation, both as a child and as a mother myself. Pregnancy and child-rearing are not an excuse. It is a life choice made and must be lived with. It is not a get out of jail free card. It bothers me when young ladies take extra days off because "I just didn't feel well, Ms." or "I had a doctor's appointment (AGAIN!!!!)" (Our doctors here are partially at fault-it is rare to find one open after 4 pm or on Sat-no kidding!)

As a teen mother myself (long story with no relevance-what's done is done), I carefully weighed the decision of can I provide the best life for my child. I had to. No question. I also knew it would be a struggle. Get my butt to school, get my diploma, get a degree (2 actually-well plus the master's and another one in progress), and provide a good life. My two daughters' biggest complaint about life right now is we can't have a dog, as we are still renting a house.

This girl made a choice-it is her problem. The school nor teachers owes her anything. She needs to grow up and face reality! I work very hard with students I find in a similar situation, but conversation can only go so far.

At 4/17/07, 8:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In Spain we have special programs in certain high schools that allow students to earn their high-school diploma slower, getting half the credits per year that they usually would (and taking longer, of course). These are normally used by professional athletes and artists or people working a full-time job. I supposed a teen mom would be a good fit, as well. Don't you have something like that in the US?

At 4/22/07, 8:01 AM, Blogger Merritt Fields said...

I have a student in the same situation. She's very lucky that she is VERY smart and can usually make up a week's worth of work in a day and still can maintain good grades (when I allow her to make up work).
However, my personal feeling on this is issue is (and it's not very PC)...if you're not old enough to take care of all of your responsibilities, then you shouldn't be screwing around in the first place. After all, these are 15 and 16 year olds we're talking about here.


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