Turning 40 and Still Dreaming Big!

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

As we celebrate 40 years of Title IX, we can’t help but reflect on what this act has done for women and young girls, as well as dream about future possibilities. At Healthy Teen Network, we spend a lot of time thinking about ways to support positive outcomes for pregnant and parenting teens. While most people think of girls’ sports when they hear Title IX, it also contains relevant protections for pregnant and parenting teens, a rather thoughtful and auspicious addition to what is basically a gender equity act.

Under Title IX, schools are prohibited from discriminating against a student because of childbirth, false pregnancy, abortion, or recovery from these conditions, as well as marital status. Title IX contains basic nondiscrimination principles, including the fundamental requirement that schools treat pregnancy and all related conditions like any other temporary disability. In a 2009 policy brief by Healthy Teen Network and National Women’s Law Center, Keeping Pregnant and Parenting Students from Dropping Out: A Guide for Policymakers and Schools, we noted that, in spite of Title IX, pregnant and parenting students still face challenges to graduating from high school because of a lack of system-wide supports.

We celebrate the continued and consistent attention to supporting educational attainment among pregnant and parenting teens that Title IX has prompted, and dream of passage of the Pregnant and Parenting Access to Education Act (HR 5584), that was introduced to congress last year by Jared Polis (D-CO) and Judy Chu (D-CA). The legislation sought to strengthen these educational supports so that these young men and women—often extremely motivated—can achieve their dreams despite early parenthood. Healthy Teen Network is proud of the work we have done to help develop and support this legislation.

We envision that NWLC’s new report, A Pregnancy Test for Schools: The Impact of Education Laws on Pregnant and Parenting Students, will inspire action and advocacy efforts on behalf of pregnant and parenting students. The report, released yesterday, shows how the vast majority of state education laws and policies fail to adequately support these students. This is unacceptable and we all play an important part in making sure this changes, if for no other reason than the economic well-being of our Nation, as this population represents lost work force opportunities.

Perhaps our most grandiose vision for the future, however, is that all teen moms and dads receive the support they need to graduate high school, go on to more education and training and take their place as productive and proud adults. This is possible if Title IX is seriously enforced, each and every school district commits to supporting this population of young people, and we professionals do our part to educate and advocate.

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH, is President/CEO of Healthy Teen Network.

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