40% of teen moms do not complete their high school education, and by age 30, less than 2% of these mothers will achieve a college degree.
Graduating high school is an incredible accomplishment for young teen moms. It represents sacrifice, commitment, and courage in the face of criticism and daunting statistics. While many will acknowledge the difficulty of this achievement, there remains disagreement on how this issue is to be presented to the students and to the community. Should schools allow for the baby to be upheld as an inspiration for this young woman’s successes? Or is it better to applaud her accomplishments– but leave the baby out of the picture?
Meet Caitlin Tiller, a soon-to be graduate of Wheatmore High School (NC) and the proud mother of 1-year-old Leelin. This May, school faculty and administration notified Caitlin that her graduation photo would not be accepted in the school yearbook. While Caitlin claims that the situation “feels like discrimination,” the school has upheld their decision despite local and national pressure.
Superintendant Donald Andrews stated:
- “The practice at Wheatmore High School regarding yearbook pictures for seniors has been to include only graduating students in the senior section, and to permit family members and friends to be featured with our seniors in the ad section of the yearbook,” he said. “We offered this option to Ms. Tiller. We regret that this practice was not made clearer to her earlier in the yearbook development process and we will do a better job going forward with explaining our yearbook practices.”
With the support of her family and her child’s father, Caitlin has been able to care for both her child and herself. As she has stated, “having a baby is not easy,” and yet she continued with her education knowing that her baby needed her. After finding out that she was pregnant, Caitlin doubled her course work in order to graduate early. In December, Caitlin was named an honor roll student, and in January, she has began taking courses at Archdale Center of Randolph Community College. On top off all of this, she works part-time!
Despite the challenges of being a teen mom, Caitlin has embraced both her education and her motherhood, and she has certainly made an impressive effort to do the best for herself and her child. Caitlin will be graduating on June 7th and continuing her pursuit of an Associates degree in medical assistance.
What do you think? Is this discrimination? Post comments below!
- Read national and local news about Caitlin Tiller’s story here and here.
- Pregnant and parenting students are granted certain rights under Title IX. If you believe that you are being discriminated against as a pregnant or parenting student, contact National Women’s Law Center at [email protected].