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Arizona Residents Upset That High School Yearbook Includes Teen Parents: ‘It Makes it Look Cute’

Arizona Residents Upset That High School Yearbook Includes Teen Parents: ‘It Makes it Look Cute’

Written by Tara Culp-Ressler

The students who work on the yearbook at Mesa High School wanted to include a few pages featuring teen parents, since they figured those kids may not have ended up in any photos otherwise. Pregnant and parenting teens probably didn’t have enough time to participate in other school events, like the homecoming dance. “We thought it would be a good idea to put them on the page where they could be seen,” a student on the yearbook staff explained to a Fox News affiliate.

But other residents in the Arizona town didn’t see it that way. The two-page spread — which features several student parents speaking honestly about the joys and challenges of raising their children — ended up sparking quite a controversy after the yearbooks landed in students’ hands.

Screenshot from Fox News

Angry parents called the high school principal to ask why those photos ended up in the yearbook. Most of them expressed concern that the feature was glamorizing teen pregnancy, or encouraging other kids to become sexually active.

“It makes it look cute, and like I’m doing so great… It doesn’t really convey the reality of what they’re going through,” Shelly Adams, one mother of a Mesa High student, told 12 News. “My main message is wait, wait for the right time, which would not be when you’re in high school,” Grace Edwards, whose granddaughter attends the school, added.

The editorial board at The Arizona Republic also weighed in, arguing that “a two-page spread glamorizing a life-altering mistake risks normalizing dysfunction” and accusing the yearbook of making teen pregnancy seem just like chess club.

The yearbook photos didn’t just provoke a backlash among adults; some students criticized them, too. “There are other kids who have worked harder for more and better accomplishments — and they have a whole page for their kids?” Gregory Gomez, a student who is taking honors classes at Mesa High School while juggling a job, complained.

While officials at Mesa Public Schools have said that they are “100 percent behind” the teen parents who want to continue their education, and have no plans to make a new policy for what’s allowed in the yearbook, a representative for the district did suggest that parenting isn’t a valuable accomplishment for high schoolers. “A yearbook is to commemorate the achievements of the students, particularly the senior class,” spokesperson Helen Hollands said. “Probably this would not fall into that category.”

This is hardly the first school district to struggle with whether to allow pregnant and parenting teens in the yearbook. Last year, a North Carolina teen’s photo was banned from her yearbook because she posed with her young son. Similarly, two pregnant high schoolers in Michigan were told they couldn’t display their baby bumps in their photos.

In general, teen parents are often met with shame and stigma — personally blamed for society’s downfall, despite the fact that they’re subject to bigger structural issues that are largely out of their control, like insufficient access to sexual health resources and economic inequality. Since May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, this time of the year typically signals an uptick in these type of negative messages about how having a baby will ruin high schoolers’ lives, and by extension, our country’s economy.

But that type of approach can be harmful for the teens who are doing their best to juggle their children with their academics, like the ones featured in Mesa High’s yearbooks. That’s why, after a round of offensive teen pregnancy prevention campaigns last May, a group of young mothers banded together to form #NoTeenShame. They say they want to change the conversation around young parenting “to a non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approach, while highlighting the importance of comprehensive sex ed.”

In a recent interview with ThinkProgress, one of the young women who spearheaded #NoTeenShame, Gloria Malone, explained that stigmatizing and blaming teen parents doesn’t work because “young mothers can feel like all the hard work they’re doing is in vain… We can’t forget that we’re talking about humans who have feelings, and emotions, and families.”

This post originally appeared on ThinkProgress

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Photo credit: Thinkstock

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146 comments

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6:38PM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

Sad

10:01PM PDT on May 30, 2014

all students have a right to be represented

6:03PM PDT on May 29, 2014

stupid...

12:08PM PDT on May 29, 2014

Some people need to keep their noses out of other peoples business. Good on those kids for completing High School whilst raising a child.

8:22AM PDT on May 29, 2014

IMO being "100 percent behind" the pregnant or parenting teen =/ the same as making it seem normal and acceptable.

4:10AM PDT on May 29, 2014

Sadly noted

6:42PM PDT on May 28, 2014

The students do not have the final say with a yearbook. Teaching staff oversee the process. This decision should have been made by the superintendent and school board. A yearbook celebrates the students achievements within the school. Honestly, this is not an extra curricular activity that should be honored in a yearbook.

3:09PM PDT on May 28, 2014

Anne F. I think you are right why many parents took umbrage at the two page spread. If you scroll down you will find a link I posted to this school districts position on sex ed class. basically what ever is really needed to tell a student is left to the parents to fill in.

This could spark something that too many parents do not want to discuss. Why little janey and lil johnny got it on one night and oops liljaney is preggers.

Lets face it, many of these parents are not only not having this discussion, but are unwilling to face the very real facts of life. Teens need to have the right tools and knowledge. Not just what a parent does not know or is unwilling to discuss with their teen.

This year book spread is a slap in their faces. It shows that there is a problem. There is a need to be addressed. It is not going to go away. Because some parents hate the idea. That their teens are learning about the why and therefores of sex and what tools, resources, and help is out there today.

That is why I have stated any one having a problem with this yearbook. Consider it an indictment of abstinence driven sex ed courses.

2:46PM PDT on May 28, 2014

As one senior said, “A yearbook is to commemorate the achievements of the students, particularly the senior class,”
This really is a sad commentary... A yearbook is not a place for promoting teenage parenthood or pregnancy. Too bad there isn't middle ground between shame and acceptance. These girls and the immature boys who father these children out of wedlock shouldn't be a focus in a yearbook that is supposed to commemorate academic "achievements". Not everyone thinks teenage parenthood should be celebrated...

5:21AM PDT on May 28, 2014

The editorial board at The Arizona Republic is NOT cool; it's like they're calling the children of these teens "life-altering mistakes" and say they live in "dysfunction". That's really not helping!

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