My senior year of college, two of my roommates and I watched Teen Mom CONSTANTLY. I liked to pretend I wasn’t watching it, but the conversation usually went something like this:
Becka (standing in doorway): “Oh jeez, guys. You’re watching this?”
Arielle: “Yes. Absolutely.”
[10 minutes later]
Rachel: “…Do you want to sit down?”
Becka (still standing in doorway): “…..Yes. FARRAH’S CRYING FACE IS CRAZY.”
When you watch the show, the difficulties of teen parents and pregnant students become painfully clear. Recently, I was re-watching Season 1 on Netflix Instant, and it clicked – wow. The Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education Act would REALLY help these girls.
Title IX already affords a number of protections to pregnant & parenting students. This law requires that schools receiving federal funds not discriminate against students on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy and related conditions like childbirth, pregnancy termination, and recovery. This prohibition against discrimination comes in a number of forms – for example, students must not be forced to attend a different program or school than their peers, must be given the opportunity to make up missed work for pregnancy-related absences, must be treated the same as if they had a temporary disability, and may not be excluded from sports or extracurricular activities.
The Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education Act (PPSAE) is designed to go beyond nondiscrimination by giving students the tools they need to succeed. It would enable school districts to – among other things – create graduation plans for pregnant and parenting students; provide academic support, parenting and life skills classes, strategies to prevent future unplanned pregnancies, and legal aid services; help pregnant and parenting students gain access to affordable child care, and revise school policies and practices to remove discouraging barriers. Pretty great, huh? Read more »
Just when I thought I had seen it all, and right on the heels of our announcement two days ago of a great Title IX pregnancy discrimination settlement with the City University of New York, my colleague forwards me this article and video from HuffPo. Apparently last summer a North Carolina high school allowed its rising seniors to pose for senior photos with props that represented their achievements, who they are, what they like, etc. Some students posed with footballs, some even posed with their family pets, and teen mom Caitlin Tiller posed with her baby. Touchingly, Caitlin explains that her son “helped me get to where I am today.” She said that after giving birth she started to work harder in school – she even graduated early, began college classes in January and got a part-time job working 30 hours a week. She added: “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.”
Still, a month ago school officials told Caitlin that they would not print the photo of her with her baby. They said the baby should not be pictured because he is not “school related.” Boy, would I love to hear them explain how a family pet is “school related.” Read more »
The Nutty Professor was a landmark role for both Jerry Lewis and Eddie Murphy. As I’m sure you all know, the main plot line is driven by the scientific prowess of the professor, who develops a serum that transforms him from a science-loving nerd into a smooth-talking, lady-chasing hunk. The movie is a parody of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and, fittingly for the comedians who have played the main character, it is hilarious. The original 1963 film was even selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
However, the recent transformation of a 16 year old girl, who “mixed some common household chemicals in a small 8 oz water bottle on the grounds of Bartow High School . . . [which] caused a small explosion that . . . produced some smoke, [but] . . . [n]o one was hurt and no damage was caused,” into a felon stretches the limits of my imagination. Unfortunately, this type of story is also culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant: the school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately affects youth of color, and women (especially women of color) continue to be underrepresented in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) fields – a topic even NASA has begun to address head-on.
I guess truth really is stranger than fiction.
According to reports, the student was taken into custody by a school resource officer (“SRO”) and charged with “possession/discharge of a weapon on school grounds and discharging a destructive device.” The student was subsequently expelled from school and will be charged as an adult. Read more »
A few months ago, my employer, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), filed an administrative complaint against the City University of New York (CUNY) for violating Title IX by discriminating against a pregnant student, and just this morning we settled the case with CUNY, which has agreed to take some important steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
A little background: Stephanie Stewart, a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), was pregnant at the start of the Spring 2012 semester. Because BMCC, like the vast majority of colleges and universities, receives federal funding, it is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex by Title IX. Unfortunately, BMCC left it up to instructors to determine their own policies for absences and make-up work and didn’t explain that pregnancy-related absences must be excused.
Stephanie’s professor in her anthropology course called “Roles of Women” refused to accede to Stephanie’s request that, if she had to miss class to attend a pregnancy-related medical appointment or to deliver her baby, she be allowed to make up the work she missed. The professor told Stephanie that she doesn’t allow make-up tests or assignments, even in cases of unforeseen emergencies – including Stephanie’s pregnancy, and refused to grade homework turned in via email when Stephanie had to attend a doctor’s appointment.
Stephanie didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She brought her case to the attention of NWLC and helped score a BIG-TIME victory for all CUNY students. As a result of the settlement, CUNY will adopt a policy regarding the treatment of pregnant and parenting students, making it clear that absences for conditions relating to pregnancy are excused and students will be allowed to make up missed work. Read more »
When applying to college several years ago, I was privileged to be able to consider women’s colleges without being concerned that my gender identity would present any problem in the application process. This is because I am cisgender – a term used for people who have a gender identity that “matches” the sex they were assigned at birth. For transgender applicants like Calliope Wong, things were more complicated.
Calliope, who identifies as a transgender woman, applied with high hopes to Smith College, a women’s college in Massachusetts. Her application was returned to her, unreviewed, with a letter from the admissions office that because her federal financial aid paperwork indicated her sex as male, they could not accept her application.
Long gone are the days when small infractions of the student code required writing something on the board 100 times. But, even if those days were still here, you would probably see more minority students and students with disabilities being subject to punishment. Unfortunately, these children are now being excluded from school at alarming rates:
Nearly1 in 4 Black students were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year.
Nearly 1 in 5 students with disabilities were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year.
For white students and students without disabilities that figure is 1 in 14. The Center for Civil Rights Remedies (an initiative of the UCLA Civil Rights Project) revealed these shocking statistics in a recent study, Out of School and Off Track: The Overuse of Suspensions in American Middle and High Schools, that analyzed the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection. The Center also released a summary of sixteen new research studies that describe the “school discipline gap, contributing factors, and the benefits of reducing disparities for students.” Read more »
Unfortunately, their solution is simply absurd. There is a bill [PDF] that has cleared committee in both the Tennessee House and Senate that would “fix” the perennial underperformance of students by linking a student’s academic performance to his/her family’s government supports. Specifically it would cut a family’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits by 30 percent if their children “are not making satisfactory progress in school.”
WHAT?! (Let’s keep in mind that in TN, TANF benefits max out at $185/month, we aren’t talking about anyone living large off of a government program.)
I couldn’t neatly package all of my rage into nicely organized paragraphs, so here are the top three reasons why this idea makes me think my head is going to explode…
The bill claims the cut to benefits wouldn’t apply if the student has a learning disability. Newsflash – not every child that has a learning disability has been properly screened and diagnosed. When I was a teacher in a low-income school, I taught students that had “highly likely to be dyslexic” results on their preliminary screenings. But in order to be officially classified as dyslexic they had to take a specific exam administered by a diagnostician. Those exams cost thousands of dollars so none of my students could be properly diagnosed, therefore they couldn’t receive any special services, and they didn’t make adequate progress over the year. The families of those kiddos, if they lived in TN under this law, would have lost vital TANF dollars that helped them barely scrape by.
Once upon a time (last year), I taught 4th grade at a Title I school in rural Louisiana. We went to school Tuesday through Friday. Yes, that’s right – only 4 DAYS A WEEK. In 2006 the underfunded and low performing school district desperately needed to find a way to save money, so the school board had to cut out Mondays.
Last week Paul Ryan released his budget and guess what - in FY13 it CUTS $15.8 million in funding from Title I schools (schools where over 75% of students qualify for free or reduced lunch) in Louisiana alone! In FY14 it adds a whopping $54.9 million in additional cuts to Louisiana schools. By the end of 2014, under Ryan’s plan, over 4 million of the most vulnerable children across the country would lose access to education services.
On Wednesday night, the President’s new Early Learning Initiative got a moment in the spotlight on the Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart, in that way only he knows how, highlighted the importance of investing in children’s early years. My trying to recap the clip will certainly erase all the humor, so I’ll let you watch it for yourself.
Think of life like a marathon (just go with me on this metaphor). Many of America’s most vulnerable children are starting five miles behind everyone else - yet we expect them to finish on par with their peers. Expanding the access these children have to high quality early learning opportunities will be revolutionary. Read more »
Since it came out a few years ago, I’ve been fascinated by the website Microaggressions. The website attempts to create a dialogue around the way small interactions about race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, or other characteristics can have enormous impact on an individual’s lived experience. According to the website, “microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, they communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative…slights.” The website is filled with stories of comments and experiences that make submitters feel “erased,” “ignored” or like they don’t matter.
While many of these incidents may seem minor in isolation, put together – and depending on the surrounding circumstances – they can rise to the level of bullying or harassment. This is a particular problem in schools. I certainly remember how, in middle school and high school, a small comment about my hair being frizzy or me not wearing makeup could throw off my entire day. When such comments or other conduct is severe or pervasive, it can create a hostile environment, in which the victim cannot focus on or succeed in his or her schoolwork. In educational settings, harassment is more than a hurtful inconvenience – it’s a barrier to an effective and fair learning environment. Read more »