by Lara S. Kaufmann, Senior Counsel,
National Women’s Law Center
When I blogged about the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy last year, I talked about the significant link between teen pregnancy rates and dropout rates. In one sentence, it goes like this:
Teen pregnancy prevention can help improve graduation rates, because girls who get pregnant as teenagers are less likely to graduate from high school, and dropout prevention is a form of teen pregnancy prevention, because girls who stay engaged in school and believe in their ability to achieve their educational and career goals are less likely to get pregnant as teenagers.
That is still true. But this year, two things are different.
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First, the bad news. The most recent data from the Guttmacher Institute suggest that for the first time in 14 years, teenage pregnancy rates went slightly up instead of down. All the more critical that our nation’s teens get comprehensive, medically accurate, age-appropriate information about how to keep from getting pregnant until after they have reached their educational goals – as well as encouragement to set and work towards such goals.
Second, the good news. Congress’s upcoming reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (commonly known as "No Child Left Behind") presents a great opportunity to address the needs of pregnant and parenting students so they can stay in school and graduate prepared for postsecondary opportunities. Those for whom pregnancy prevention does not work and who decide to carry their pregnancies to term should not be deemed "failures" and discouraged or illegally discriminated against by their schools. For them, their children, and our nation, it should not be seen as the end of their educational possibilities, but a new beginning. Congress and schools cannot squander this opportunity to make a difference in the lives of so many.