With the proliferation of social networks, Twitter, reality shows, YouTube and blogs, it’s not the easiest thing to get the attention of this media- saturated nation. High schooler Gaby Rodriguez of Toppenish, WA, has managed to break through with a social experiment for her senior project. You might have seen Gaby in your local paper or on a major network last week as the “girl who faked being pregnant.”
Gaby spent the past six-and- a-half months wearing an extended belly and keeping her secret from an entire student body, as well as most of her family. Gaby documented her experience as a pregnant teen in a brave effort to bring light to the inhospitable climate that most teens face when carrying a child. In May, Gaby will be presenting her experience to community members to further the discussion around pregnant and parenting teens.
Although some might question the deceptive nature of her experiment, Gaby has done what most of us fighting for gender equality and education rights dream of doing: making the struggles of pregnant and parenting teens a national topic. Our hat is off to Gaby Rodriguez for getting this serious topic some much-needed attention.
According to a recent 2010 study by America’s Promise Alliance, one of every three students in the U.S. fails to graduate from high school. Of the female students, 30 percent cite pregnancy or parenting as a key reason for dropping out; these rates are even higher for African-American and Latino students. A serious contributing factor to these high dropout rates is the illegal discrimination faced by pregnant and parenting teens at school. This discrimination can take the form of telling pregnant girls outright they have to leave school or transfer to an alternative school. Or sometimes the discrimination can be more subtle, such as teachers refusing to give excused absences or make-up assignments for pregnancy-related leave or counselors coercing students into substandard programs or excluding them from school activities based on “morality” codes. For student mothers parenting a child, only 40 percent of these young women will make it to graduation .These numbers make it clear that Gaby had more than enough reason to go through with her false pregnancy.
These staggering percentages are the reason why the ACLU-WA has launched its Pregnant and Parenting Teens Project aimed at educating service providers, advocates, students, and school staff about the educational rights of pregnant and parenting students. We are motivated by the stories of young women who are balancing being pregnant or parenting and pursuing their education. For more information about this project, contact Linda Mangel.
Do you have a story of your own?
If you or someone you know personally has been treated poorly at school because they are pregnant or have a child, please let us know. We may be able to help, and your story may help others in the same situation.
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