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Update: Another perspective on the closing of NYC Pregnancy Schools

A few weeks ago, I posted about the news (reported by the NYTimes) that they were closing the last four schools for pregnant teen moms left in NYC. My post was pretty much in support of the closings, but I feel the need to bring this topic up again because of an email I received from Yomara Velez, an activist and teen mother herself. Here is some of what she said to me:

While we understand that the schools need much improvement, we must say that we are NOT in support of the school’s closing. Prior to taking a position on this issue, we must think very carefully of how teen mothers will be affected. Yes, some teen mothers are pushed out of high schools and we denounce that type of blatant discrimination! However, this is a very delicate time in a young women’s life and for some of the young women the P-Schools were a safe haven. A place where they did not risk being in the middle of a fight, where teachers understood morning sickness and their children were nearby. The closings of these schools was very poorly executed and communicated. There are students who were interviewed by the NEW YORK TIMES who didn’t know the purpose of the article and when they read it were upset to find out that not only was their school closing but their innocent words were twisted to support the decision. These young women don’t have transition plans, for some of them they don’t know how they’ll deal with child care and conveniently enough the Dept. of Education waited until June, a few weeks before the end of the school year to share their intention. How unfair!!! So, it breaks my heart to see all of these people giving their opinions on the matter yet not stopping to actually hear some of the student’s voices. We need a diverse set of educational option because what works for one sister may not work for another. How can a good advocate for teen mother’s not put teen mother’s needs in front and center of the issue? You hear the voice of professionals who will not be impacted by the changes but rarely do you hear the young women’s stories. If you’re site is about being radical, please reach out to us so you can understand the full picture. I’ve enclosed a bunch of information, including student’s testimonies (see attached). I hope you’ll take the time to read it! I thank you for your posting and I hope you’ll support teen mothers as they struggle to access a decent education.

I appreciate very much that she took the time to reach out to me and explain her position, as well as some of the complexities of the issue. I’m also going to include here some quotes from the student testimonies she sent as well.

I am very upset that the school is closing. I feel like the school has
opened many doors for me and given me many opportunities. I really think the Department of Education is not thinking about the choice they are making to close the schools. I feel like the DOE (Dept of Education) is a failure. They failed to educate us and now they will fail at trying to close the schools. The DOE failed us as young moms and young women of color

-Teen Mother from Martha Nielsen School, the Bronx P-School

The Superintendent made this decision and did not discuss it with us. She didn’t even let us know. It is not fair that we are not going to have a school next year. It is not fair for students and teachers to find out through a news article thatthey will not have a school in September. I am not only trying to keep the schools open for myself but for other teens who are currently pregnant and need somewhere to come back to in September. The school is safe and I like the one floor environment without stairs. You feel comfortable in the school with other teen moms. You don’t feel awkward or left out.

-Teen Mother from Martha Nielsen School, the Bronx P-School

It is surprising that this decision was made seemingly apart from the women attending the schools, and with little plan for their integration into the larger public school system. While I still feel that in the long run, pregnant teens should be provided with extra support within the traditional school system (childcare on site, as well as extra mentorship and tracking), I understand these girl’s concerns about how these decisions were made, and what this means for them in the near future.

If you want to support their campaign to keep the schools open, check out their website or call their office at (718) 991-6003 (ask for Sharim, Leslie, Andrea or Autumn).

Thanks again to Yomara for sharing her thoughts and opinions with me.

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