By Soguel and Thurston
Saturday, January 12, 2008
Pregnant teens and counselors in Denver are calling for maternity leaves in the public school system, the Denver Post reported Jan 7. The school board at Denver's East High School fielded requests at a Dec. 20 public hearing to give new mothers one month off from school to recover from delivery and bond with their newborns. The students also want to prevent penalties for excessive absences caused by giving birth.
District officials are reviewing school policies. Michelle Moss, a member of the school board, said it was critical that new mothers be allowed to bond with their infants. "Maybe we do need a policy," she said. "Clearly, as a district, we have to look at what is going on with our young women. We've got to look at the birth-control issues and teen pregnancy and how we best help them deal with it and still graduate."
Denver has one of the highest teen-pregnancy rates in Colorado but there is only one school in the city for pregnant teens and new moms. Of every 1,000 female teens ages 15 to 17, 54.5 will become pregnant in the city; the statewide pregnancy rate is 24.3 per 1,000. Nationwide, only 40 percent of women who give birth before they turn 18 graduate from high school, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies.
A 1994 policy that has granted visas to over 30,000 abused immigrants, allowing them to remain in the United States and seek citizenship, is being reviewed by the Department of Homeland Security, the Sacramento Bee reported Jan. 7. Although the government declined to explain why the policy is being reconsidered, women's rights activists said the move is part of a larger effort to crack down on immigrants who first entered the country without documentation.
Anti-violence advocates say that many women who seek the special visas are prevented by their abusive partners from obtaining legal immigration status, and their "illegal" status is often used as a means to threaten them. Ellen Kemp of the National Lawyers Guild's National Immigration Project in Boston said her organization is hearing from attorneys around the country that their clients' visa requests are being held up.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., criticized Homeland Security for reinterpreting a visa policy that was ordered by Congress in 1994 as part of the Violence Against Women Act. "We're against illegal immigration," Lofgren said of Congress. "But we're against domestic abuse and murder, too."
Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Gov. Mitt Romney said during a campaign appearance that he is against violence toward all people but is "not familiar" with the Violence Against Women Act. Romney's statements came to light after blogger Jessica Valenti posted a video clip on The Nation's Web site. The law authorized $3.4 billion in funding to fight domestic and sexual violence over five years when it was reauthorized in 2005.