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Proposed legislation would help prevent pregnant New Mexico teens from dropping out

Proposed legislation would help prevent pregnant New Mexico teens from dropping out
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POSTED: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 6:27pm

UPDATED: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 10:17pm

New Mexico lawmakers are hoping to keep pregnant teens and teen parents from dropping out of school by allowing them extra unexcused absences.

House Bill 300 would give pregnant teens an extra 10 days of unexcused absences allowing them to deal with issues that arise from pregnancy.

"Many of them know they are going to be out past the 10 days so they say I'm not going back, " said Earl Nissen, a teen pregnancy prevention advocate with Teen Pregnancy Prevention Work Group.

New Mexico does have the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the country and does offer help teen parents.

The GRADS program helps with daycare and other parenting resources while students go to school.

The program is currently available at three Las Cruces high schools.

Those against the proposed legislation argue giving students extra time away from the classroom will affect the overall quality of education.

"It's going to be bad for them losing time from their education that they are really going to need in the future," said Las Cruces parent Cynthia Cubero.

Proponents of the bill say a pregnant teen could benefit from having the extra time of and knowing they could make up the work they missed while away from class.

"We need the school districts to extend that time so that the girls know they can come back to their classes," Nissen said.

A dropout report for the 2010-2011 school year shows three students left school citing pregnancy as the reason why.

The report also shows four students dropped out for child care reasons.

The bill would also extend to teen parents allowing them the extra days off and the opportunity to complete make-up work for the same number of days the student was out of class.

The legislation introduced by Las Cruces area State Representative Doreen Gallegos has already cleared the house with a 56-12 vote Friday afternoon.

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