Boston Public Schools has been working with the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and several supportive organizations across the city on a very comprehensive policy for expectant and parenting students. It’s pretty amazing and nostalgic for me as I was brought on as a young mom during a roundtable discussion with Councilor Ayanna Pressley at Boston City Hall in 2010 (here’s my recap) and it’s been history-in-the-making since!
In 2010, Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Chair of Committee on Women and Healthy Communities, scheduled a meeting with organizations across the city who work with expectant and parenting students, Boston Public Schools, and young mothers to talk about the 1988 version of the policy. In 2010, Councilor Pressley presented the motion to revise the School-Age Parents Policy of the Boston Public Schools and the revision process began in 2013!
I have attended every single meeting and ensured that my voice was and is both being heard and used to entirely change and improve a policy that will impact the lives of young families. My experiences may be unique in some ways and my narrative does not represent an entire community, but my lens can help shape something more appropriate for people like me.
Here are 5 awesome points we cover:
1. Throughout this new policy, “expectant student” is defined as any student, regardless of gender identity, who is either pregnant or is the partner of a pregnant student. This matters to young people who are often misgendered and misidentified.
2. Discrimination and harassment from school staff is highlighted! Yes! School leaders, teachers, and other school staff are held accountable for leading the way in treating all students, including expectant and parenting students, with respect, and recognizing that all students have the potential to succeed, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, relationship status, or marital status.
3. And just as Title IX mandates, expectant and parenting students who feel their civil rights may have been violated for any reason are encouraged to file a report with the Equity Office. Principals, Superintendents, and staff are all held accountable for violating a young parents' rights.
4. Schools should also be sensitive to new mothers’ need to express breastmilk and should work with students to identify a private and sanitary location for this purpose. Because of my experience in high school, this was actually one of my own key policy suggestions. Elevating every young moms' right to pump and giving them the time to pump, space to pump, and support to pump is vital.
5. And of course, all expectant and parenting students have the right to choose how and when they seek services and support from school staff. Staff cannot push their noses into a young parent's business and no one can force a young parent to participate in a program or apply for something they do not want to apply for. Young parents are not forced into any class or program that perpetuates the idea that they are incapable of succeeding without it.
As you can imagine, the policy is both long and comprehensive so there’s a ton more that isn’t posted in this blog and while it's not in its final state, I am so proud of it already.
Please leave a comment below with your thoughts on this policy or feel free to ask a question. I’ll answer them myself!