Teen Parents Spotlighted in High School Yearbook, the Usual Suspects Freak Out

coupleonboatIn the ideal world of most American parents, their children will not become parents themselves until they have graduated from high school and/or college, married, and achieved some amount of financial stability. That being said, it doesn’t always happen that way, of course.

The good news is that not all teen parents end up in jail, on drugs, or on MTV. Some kids who have kids of their own before getting a high school diploma still actually graduate and go on to support their children in a loving and stable environment. The odds might not be in their favor at the beginning, but that just makes their success stories that much sweeter.

A high school in Arizona attempted to highlight some of those successes in their yearbook. Mesa High School dedicated two pages in the annual tome to pregnant students and those who’ve already given birth, according to the New York Daily News. The spread is titled “I’m Working a Double Shift” and shows students who are also moms and dads playing with their babies, or in one case, a boyfriend cradling his girlfriend’s pregnant belly.

As you might imagine, there are those who are less than thrilled about it. “There are other kids who have worked harder for better accomplishments,” Gregory Gomez, a Mesa High School student, said to The Arizona Republic. “And [the teen parents] have a whole page for their kids.” Another complaint is that the school is not-so-tacitly condoning teen parenting by making it look “cute.” There are even reports of some students who have glued those two teen-parent pages together so they don’t have to look at it it (although in the gluers’ defense, who really knows if pregnancy is contagious, so better to play it safe and avoid those pages altogether).

One naysayer actually makes a good point, which is that “it’s wonderful that [the teen parents are] still in school and trying to finish up their education, but at the same time, it doesn’t really convey the reality of what they’re going through.” Except that if you actually read the yearbook feature that accompanies the photos, it says, in part, “Suddenly, you are not only working, but you’re working to support your new bundle of joy, spending your paychecks on essentials like diapers, baby formula, tiny little socks and shoes, and, of course, books!” The boy holding his girlfriend’s belly? He admitted — in the yearbook — how he was scared of his dad’s reaction to the pregnancy news, but breathed a sigh of relief when he received more support than judgment at the news.

The two pages of the book devoted to teen parents aren’t the come-on of a cult. The featured students aren’t trying to recruit their classmates into having their own babies so all the kids can play together. They’re not telling their friends to go out and have unprotected, premarital sex. They are simply telling their story. Perhaps they would have liked to appear on the page with the chess or debate club, or in a photo with the soccer team, but they couldn’t because being a parent and a high school student probably means they don’t have time for too many extracurricular activities.

No, the teen parents at Mesa High School aren’t being applauded as successes because they became parents when they were teens, but because they are teens who became parents and are still in school.

For those who think the teen-parent page is abhorrent, do you suppose they’ve also wondered if the childless teens might look at their baby-burdened classmates and be deterred from following suit? Somehow you just know that those unhappy about the feature are also those who don’t believe in teaching kids about safe sex, instead thinking that abstinence is the only lesson to be learned. And don’t you also just know that those very same people don’t see the correlation (and the irony) between the pregnant teens at Mesa High School, the fact that Arizona ranks 15th in the country for high pregnancy rates, and the lack of sex education across the state? It would seem that the teen parents featured in Mesa High School’s yearbook are more of a cautionary tale. And the fact that sex education isn’t mandatory in Arizona public schools — and that specific methods of contraception “aren’t discussed in detail,” according to the Arizona Daily Star — well, then maybe this two-page yearbook spread will help affect change where it is so clearly needed. Ignorant people, on the other hand, will need a lot more than a couple of pages in a yearbook to ever change their judgmental ways.

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