New York’s Schools for Pregnant Girls Will Close

Posted by Kendall Harmon

A dozen girls, some perched awkwardly with their pregnant bellies flush against the desks, were struggling over a high school geometry assignment on a recent afternoon.

No pencils, no textbooks, no Pythagorean theorem. Instead, they sewed quilts.

That is what passes for math in one of New York City’s four high schools for pregnant girls, this one in Harlem. “It ties into geometry,” said Patricia Martin, the principal. “They’re cutting shapes.”

Created in the 1960s, when pregnant girls were such pariahs that they were forced to leave school until their babies were born, the city school system’s four pregnancy schools — or P-schools, as they are obliquely referred to — have lived on, their population dwindling to just 323 students from 1,500 in the late 1960s.

They have been marked by abysmal test scores, poor attendance and inadequate facilities, and even some of their own administrators say they suspect that most of their students are pushed there by other schools because they are failing academically. In place of proms and computer labs, they have Mother’s Day parties and day care centers with cribs lining the walls.

Now in recognition of their failure, the city plans to shut them down at the end of the school year as part of a sweeping reorganization to be announced today of the alternative school district, which also includes an array of vocational, technical and dropout programs for students who have struggled in traditional settings.

“It’s a separate but unequal program,” acknowledges Cami Anderson, the superintendent whose district includes the Program for Pregnant Students, as it is formally called. “The girls get pushed out of their original high schools, they don’t come to class and they don’t gain ground in terms of credits.”

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchEducation

8 Comments
Posted May 31, 2007 at 1:03 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. AquinasOnSteroids wrote:

Well, when you’re sewing quilts instead of learning about REAL geometry, then we see what the REAL problem is…

May 31, 12:30 pm | [comment link]
2. Deja Vu wrote:

These days, nearly 40 New York City high schools have their own day care centers.

They are closing the “separate but equal” schools because pregnancy, childbirth and day care for the babies have been integrated into the regular high schools.

May 31, 3:32 pm | [comment link]
3. e-piscopalian wrote:

This is a pathetic indicator of how poorly sex-ed works when tauthg in school.  Sex is a topic that is the responsibility of parents, with the exception of a small percentage of youngsters.  When I was in high school, during the mid-sixties, the unintended pregnancy rate was about 5%.  This rate skyrocketed with the broader distribution of The Pill and Roe v. Wade.  Young people CAN be obstinately abstinate when there’s a compelling reason to be so.  Duh!

May 31, 6:31 pm | [comment link]
4. SouthCoast wrote:

#1. Frankly, that depends. I’ve had to use one whale of a lot of practical geometric when working with quilt patterns. And the patterns that my un- or under-educated foremothers devised by intuition and instinct still blow me away.

May 31, 7:16 pm | [comment link]
5. Dale Rye wrote:

Re #3: Teaching sex-ed in schools did not reduce the number of parents who took responsibility for their children. That was already extremely low.

June 1, 12:25 am | [comment link]
6. e-piscopalian wrote:

I can’t make sense of your comment, Mr. Rye. 

In the post-WWII era about which I wrote, the 50’ & 60’s, and in previous eras, parents had 100% responsibility for their children, and MOST parent’s taught their children that abstinence before marriage was the norm.  Most people married between 18 and 24 years of age and MOST marriages did not end in divorce.  Marriage was seen as a commitment of both heart and will, unlike today. 

Teaching sex-ed in school INCREASED the number of kids who dared to have sex for the reason that the more daring kids tend to be the more popular kids.  Do you have kids?  I do.  In addition, my parents had 5 kids, NONE of which was ever promiscuous. (The word ‘promiscuous was replaced by ‘sexually active’ to remove the stigma associated with recreational sex)

Sex ed has put the parents at a remove from what their children are taught about sex.  Therefore they learn to use condoms, learn about all kinds of sexual practices most would not dream up on their own, and put pressure on the kids to practice what they are learning about.  It’s evil nonsense.

June 1, 8:35 am | [comment link]
7. clayton wrote:

Do you have the stats for how many of those 18 to 24 year old girls were pregnant at their weddings?  The empire waist dress wasn’t just a fashion statement for a lot of brides, and there were a lot of very large “premature” babies born to my cousins.  Don’t go idealizing the good old days without looking under the hood at what was really happening.

June 2, 2:05 am | [comment link]
8. e-piscopalian wrote:

Of course there are statistics regarding these issues, and of course I have seen many statistics.  However, the fact that many people refuse to believe certain things does not mean they are not so.  Though there is plenty of statistical evidence for what I have written above, I don’t need statistics to tell me that the culture today is almost the complete inverse of the culture in which I grew up.  Prior to the early seventies, for example, most people were clearly shocked at the very idea of unwed cohabitation.  Young people who cohabited HID it from their families. Pregnant girls went to live with relatives or went to line and finish school in a home for unwed girls.  This may shock some people today, but it was simply a rational consequence for transgressive acts.  Nowadays the things that shock people tend to be associated with ‘bigoted’ comments, where bigotry is actually involved or not.  Do you need statistics to tell you that?

One doesn’t always need statistics to sense the social climate in which one lives.  Some things are obvious because statistics are not the only measure.  Having LIVED during the era about which I speak,  I personally observed a lot of changes.  In my high school class (1968), for example, only ONE (1) girl from my class of 200 kids got pregnant over the entire four years.  There were no rumors about any other girls, and the evidence is that very few girls even left my class at all. The few who did moved away with their families. By contrast, one of the au pairs we employed in the mid-1980’s (20 years later) came from a small Montana town in which she told us about 1/3 of the girls became pregnant during high school, and that school had a sex-ed program.  This is an example, not a statistic, but statistics bear out the fact today that over 30% of all American babies are born to unwed mothers.

I also know the difference between anecdotal and statistical evidence.  Nevetheless, most of us do not have to seek statistical proof for everything we know.  A lot of what we know we can’t help but absorb through living in the culture we create. Nevertheless, why don’t you make your own investigation if you don’t want to believe me?

June 2, 8:13 am | [comment link]
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