• 34°

School district will focus on pregnant teen-agers

[12/23/04]Once public schools return to a community school setting, the next step is to help teenage mothers in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

“When I was going to school, if a girl got pregnant, she was whisked away,” said Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent James Price. “That’s not the way it works now.

“We’re trying to meet the needs of each child by keeping them in class. Kicking them out is the worst thing you could do, because they’re the ones who need the degree to be able to support that child.”

The district has programs in place to help young mothers, but Price said administrators are looking to expand them.

“One of our goals is to find the space and the resources to set up a day care so that we can work with the mother and child, in the same setting,” he said. He said planning will resume after the community school initiative a plan to place students in K-6 schools closer to their homes is in place in the 2005-06 school year.

Josie Williams, who oversees long-term suspension and homebound students for the district, also oversees the district’s work with pregnant students and students with a child or children.

She said the district has about 125 pregnant teens in the ninth through 12th grades each year out of the 2,300 students enrolled in the district’s two high schools.

Although teen pregnancy and birth rates have been falling for several years, across the state, 6,961 girls between the ages 15 and 19 gave birth in 2002, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s Web site.

In the United States in 2002, 425,493 teens gave birth. That same year, Mississippi ranked 27th in the nation for teen pregnancies and 28th in the nation for teen births.

The biggest problem teen mothers face is finding child care, Williams said.

“In most cases the young mothers’ parents are single and don’t have the money to pay for day care,” Williams said.

Price said for the district to offer day care, which would have to gain approval through the state, and have a licensed teacher and assistant could cost $75,000 to $100,000 per year.

“We’re looking for federal dollars that will support that,” he said.

Already, the district has programs in place to assist expectant teens learn about being a parent.

With parental permission, pregnant students can attend prenatal classes at Vicksburg Family Development, Williams said.

“The classes take them from conception to birth, teach them breathing exercises; basic things teens wouldn’t necessarily know,” she said.

The teens are also provided with donated maternity clothes if needed.

Williams said though most pregnant students are able to attend school regularly, the district does work to help those who are on doctors orders to stay home.