Imagine your daughter and her seven friends came over and you knew that one of them would definitely be pregnant. If your daughter went to Robeson High School in Chicago, this would be the case: of 800 girls, 115 of them are pregnant or have had a child. The one in seven rate is astounding, and there are hundreds of factors that may contribute to the school's pregnancy numbers.
These factors include a lack of access to sexual health education and pregnancy prevention and a lack of access to reproductive health resources. The school's students are largely from poor communities of color where teenage pregnancies can be high. The Principal of Robeson adds that absentee fathers may also be a factor.
At least Robeson is a school in which young women are not being thrown out or transferred to other schools. Principal Morrow notes, "We're looking at how we can get them to the next phase, how can we still get them thinking about graduation?"
So often we may be quick to blame or judge the pregnant girls in the situation, their parents, or other individuals. But Robeson's numbers are a product of a much larger institutional problem - poor reproductive health education in low-income communities. Educational classes and centers need to be set up that normalize and encourage the use of birth control methods and distribute condoms. A teen health center is being built across the street, which is a step in the right direction. But funding needs to be poured into the creation and maintenance of centers such as these so that teenage pregnancy rates go down. The health of young women of color need to be addressed directly so that they aren't struggling to raise children or give birth while trying to graduate from high school.