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Are Pregnant Teens in Minnesota Still Being Shuffled Away From School?

August 29, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - When most people hear the words "Title IX," they think of the requirement for equality of the sexes in school sports, but the law has other implications, as well. Brigid Riley, executive director of Teenwise Minnesota, says because of Title IX, schools must provide the same educational opportunities for all - including teens who have kids or are pregnant.

"In reality, what happens in so many districts is that, if a girl becomes pregnant, she is strongly encouraged to head off to an alternative learning center."

Riley says an alternative school is fine, if it has all the same academic and extracurricular offerings or if the pregnant teen chooses that option.

"But if they're told 'That's where all of the pregnant girls go, that's what you have to do,' or even if it's sort of an unspoken message, that's not setting up a very fair education opportunity."

Riley says it is an issue that has evolved over the decades. For example, in the 1950s most girls who got pregnant would "kind of disappear" and then give their baby away, she says.

"Now, so many girls keep their babies and raise them themselves, and it's still hard for schools. It just seems like a failure, not only on the girl's part, but on the school's part, as well."

Riley says pregnant teens may just be the student population that most needs to stay in school and get an education.

"When girls don't graduate, there is often a lifetime of negative consequences. We really do want them to graduate, especially because they are usually the head of a new, young family."

Teenwise Minnesota has been partnering with the National Women's Law Center and the Minnesota Department of Education to host summits for school districts to learn about all of the implications of Title IX.

There were nearly 6,000 teen pregnancies in Minnesota in 2009.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN