Idaho does worse than any other state when it comes to encouraging pregnant and parenting students to finish high school. That’s the finding in a study released this week by the National Women’s Law Center.
The federal law - Title IX -may be best known for creating equality in sports for girls but it does a lot more. The NWLC thinks schools don’t realize that law also provides protection for pregnant and parenting students. The nonprofit says since Title IX passed 40 years ago, discrimination is still widespread. Its report compared laws and policies in different states.
“Idaho’s laws and policies either did not address the needs of pregnant or parenting students or actually increased the likelihood that they may drop out," says Lara Kaufmann, one of the report’s authors.
She says states at the top of the list like California, Florida, and Oregon have laws in place to reinforce Title IX, for example laws that spell out how the state will deal with school absences related to childbirth. She says Idaho’s code is largely silent on students who are pregnant or have children. Kaufmann is also critical of the support programs the state has, especially a website, teenageparent.org.
“One question in the FAQ section is 'my girlfriend is pregnant and we can’t afford to have a baby, what do we do?’ Kaufmann says. "Well the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare says, ‘Well, you probably should have thought of that before now!’”
A spokesman for Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare says that’s taken out of context, because after that question and statement, the site goes on to offer advice on assistance programs. But for Kaufmann, it’s an example of Idaho’s attitude toward pregnant and parenting students. It’s things like that, she says, that push Idaho below Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and other states at the bottom of the list.