Pregnant and parenting students in California and throughout the United States have a right to the same educational opportunities as other students. They are protected from discrimination and harassment and may not be excluded from classes or extracurricular activities because they are pregnant or have children. But students’ lived experiences do not reflect these protections. In fact, pregnant and parenting students face an array of institutional barriers that obstruct their path to educational success.
Having a baby is stereotypically characterized as a teenager’s ticket to educational failure. The stereotype is frequently accompanied by a statistic: the national dropout rate of 70 percent among students who give birth. But this statistic obscures a very different truth: most parenting teens want to stay in school and, if properly supported, can thrive as students. Actually, parenthood frequently motivates students to focus on their future and achieve their educational goals. Indeed, a state-funded program, the California School Age Families Education Program (Cal-SAFE) increased high school graduation rates among parenting students to over 73 percent, by providing pregnant and parenting students with childcare, academic support, and linkages to social services programs.
This report examines school conditions for pregnant and parenting students in California. It identifies barriers to obtaining an education and proposes solutions for protecting students’ rights and promoting their success in school.
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