For the first time ever, the students at North Carolina's Wheatmore High were allowed to use a prop in their senior yearbook pictures. The only rule: it had to represent an achievement or something they liked. For most students, that meant a basketball, award, violin, or family pet. However, one student wanted to use a photo of herself holding her baby. For Caitlin Tiller, posing with her son Leelin represented taking responsibility and unconditional love. It's an admirable gesture, to be sure, but the school banned the image and they were right to do so.
Caitlin certainly has much to be proud of. She has done something many teen moms are not able to do. She actually finished high school in December, started college in January, and works more than 30 hours a week at a part-time job. She says that her motivation for working so hard is her son. It's an amazing story and she should be congratulated for being such a wonderful example, not just to young moms, but to all students.
However, I do see the school's point. They say the yearbook should be all about the student and not an extension of the student's family. I will admit, my initial knee-jerk reaction to Caitlin's story was that she should be allowed to use any photo she wants. But when I took a step back and thought about it from a parenting perspective, I changed my mind. It's not that she shouldn't be congratulated for what she has accomplished. She deserves our admiration for not giving up her dreams of an education while still supporting her son. But teen pregnancy is a serious issue and not one to be taken lightly.
With the success of shows like Teen Mom, there is a real fear that in many ways, our culture is glorifying the situation. The sad fact is, most moms that age won't have the opportunity to go to college or even finish high school for that matter. In fact, teen pregnancy is the number one reason teen girls drop out of school. Only 1/3 will actually graduate and less than 1 percent will go on to earn a college degree. On top of that, 25 percent of teen moms have a second child within two years.
It's not only hard on young moms. Their kids statistically do worse in school and are more likely to grow up in poor families. And daughters of teen moms are three times more likely to become teen moms themselves, creating a cycle. That's not to say all hope is lost. Certainly Caitlin is on her way to be a shining example of overcoming those odds. But I understand the school's reluctance to allow the photo in the yearbook.
Do you think Caitlin should be allowed to pose with her son in the high school yearbook?