Adult Bullies Make a Cruel Example Out of Pregnant Teen

pregnant bellyBeing 15 and pregnant is bad enough. Being 15 and pregnant and intentionally humiliated in front of an entire body of students and educators is the ultimate worst. First Shantelle Hicks was booted from her Gallup, N.M., school because she turned up in the family way. When the local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union got involved and roundly tsked tsked the Wingate Elementary School for barring her access to education, which apparently everyone but that set of administrators knows is illegal, they readmitted her. Grudgingly, I’m sure.

Alas, they weren’t finished harassing the child. Two weeks after she was permitted to continue on, a school counselor and middle-school director allegedly forced the teen to stand in front of her peers and teachers as they announced her condition, stadium-style. Before that moment, no one but her sister knew. After that moment, everyone but her mama did. 

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The intent, says the adult bullies behind this bit of bad decision-making, was to keep her from being a bad example to the rest of the kids. They feared by treating her civilly and perhaps even tenderly that teen pregnancy would spread like wildfire across the student body at the co-ed public boarding school, which is funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and operated by the Bureau of Indian Education.

Their zealous precaution-taking had the potential to send a girl in an already fragile state into a full-blown meltdown. I guess the people on the other end of the public flogging think that demeaning the offender Hester Prynne-style will prevent other teens from following her wayward footsteps. But history (Hester not included) has shown us that no amount of verbal mollywhopping is going to discourage a headstrong teenager from making a bad sexual health or general life choice. So their panic was a bit unwarranted.

Now Hicks is suing, with the ACLU acting as the protective big brother. She's delivered the baby by now -- who's absolutely gorgeous, by the way. But the lawsuit, filed on March 6, seeks punitive damages and declaratory relief for violation of constitutional rights to equal protection and of the Title IX prohibition against sex and pregnancy discrimination in education. That all boils down to don’t single any kid in the school out for anything that makes them different, even a preventable quality like being knocked up. I thought we'd all gotten the memo by now. Pass it on over there to Wingate. 

Ms. Shantelle isn’t some unlikely heroine. She had no business getting pregnant in the first doggone place. With all that we now know about protection and sexual empowerment, I find it really hard to believe that this child had no idea that condoms (let alone abstinence) prevent things like becoming a mother in the eighth grade from happening. The information is everywhere. 

Still, the foolishness of a teenager doesn’t excuse the foolishness of the adults who should be helping her plan out her future and keep her from becoming another dismal teen pregnancy-related education statistic.

Was the school wrong to announce the girl's pregnancy in front of her peers and teachers?


Image via Photos by Lina/Flickr

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