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NYC Must Replace “Pregnancy Schools” with Aggressive Strategy to Meet Pregnant and Parenting Students’ Needs, NYCLU Says

The New York Civil Liberties Union today expressed concern that the New York City Department of Education’s plan to close four public high schools for pregnant students is not accompanied by a plan to better meet the needs of pregnant and parenting teens citywide.

“The Department of Education has a legal obligation to ensure that pregnant and parenting students are provided with full and equal access to both the educational opportunities and the support services that these students need to succeed,” said Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the NYCLU. “The city’s ‘pregnancy schools’ provided neither — but in closing them the DOE has not solved the problem and may have made it worse. Many regular schools currently push out pregnant and parenting students and fail to provide the educational and social support services they so desperately need. The plan to close the ‘pregnancy schools’ must be accompanied by an aggressive strategy to change the culture hostile to pregnant and parenting students — and a comprehensive plan to build active support systems that will help them stay in or return to regular schools.”

For years the NYCLU has received reports of students being “pushed out” of mainstream high schools that lack the resources or motivation to support students who choose to continue their education while pregnant or parenting. A 2000 study conducted by the NYCLU found that a number of city schools routinely and unlawfully denied enrollment to pregnant students, or forced students to transfer to “pregnancy schools,” as their pregnancies progressed. An internal study by the city has acknowledged this problem, as well as problems of poor academic standards and low attendance, in these schools.

The NYCLU noted that the city’s “pregnancy schools,” while deeply flawed both as a legal matter and educationally, have provided some young women with access to parenting classes, prenatal care, child care and assistance with public benefits. Students have had access to special training from social workers and counselors as well as the opportunity to attend schools that provide support services and nurturing atmospheres.

Federal regulations clearly prohibit discrimination based on marital or parenting status, stating that students shall not be denied access to educational programs “on the basis of such student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.”

“The DOE must support students’ decisions to continue their education both during their pregnancies and after they have children by providing them with adequate services and by training school personnel,” said Galen Sherwin, Interim Director of the NYCLU’s Reproductive Rights Project. “Otherwise, these students will continue to be forced into inferior educational facilities, or to drop out of the public education system altogether.”

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