ACLU Asks For Teen Maternity Leave in New Mexico
New Mexico has the second highest teen birth rate and the second highest high school drop out rate.
The American Civil Liberties Union wants new laws to protect teen parents in the educational system.
The ACLU presented a report to legislators last week explaining how they say, current state policy pushes young parents away from education. The ACLU is saying young parents are not asking for special treatment. They're asking for equal treatment.
"New Mexico doesn't currently have an absence policy or maternity leave policy, so that means is that teachers and administrators across the state are making arbitrary deicions about whether or not an absence is excused," said Micaela Kadena from ACLU New Mexico.
Kadena said the future of the state depends on making sure everyone is educated.
She adds Massachusetts has a similar law in place already. A federal law could also cover this circumstance. Title IX prevents discrimination on the basis of gender, if federal money is involved.
So in effect, girls should not be discriminated against if they're pregnant.
Title IX says:
"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance..."
One former teen mom says maternity leave for high school students would encourage teenaged mothers to take off more time than they need.
Christina Guerrero only took a week off from school when she had her baby, but she says it wasn't easy.
"Nobody told me to get in that circumstance and I knew I was going to have a harder time choosing that route," Guerrero said. " I was ready to take on any obstacles and I wasn't going to let having a baby get in the way. If that meant having to be back in a week I would do it".
The ACLU is touring the state trying to make people aware of their goals and says reception to the proposed legislation has been positive among lawmakers in Santa Fe. The New Mexico legislative session starts December 17th.