ACLU wants teen maternity leave in NM

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) — Elisiana Montoya was having a successful school career, getting A's and B's.

Then she got pregnant at 15 and had her daughter, Evelytte, three months early.

"She had heart problems, conditions and she had to go to the doctor a lot," Montoya said.

Suddenly a promising high school career was quickly heading off the rails. Those A's and B's became D's and even F's as Montoya's absences increased.

"I was pretty much having a meltdown every single day," Montoya said. "I was crying saying that I wouldn't make it."

Montoya, now 18, pulled through and graduated but many teen moms don't. National statistics from 2010 found only 51 percent of teen moms ended up getting a high school diploma. New Mexico has the second highest teen pregnancy rate in the country and one of the nation's highest dropout rates overall.

To help accommodate teen parents, Albuquerque Public Schools has a separate school, New Futures, with a specially designed program.

But Alexandra Smith, a staff attorney with ACLU New Mexico, says the entire state needs to do more, especially when it comes to absence and leave policies.

"Pregnant and parenting students have more need to go to the doctor more than normal students," Smith said.

The ACLU is planning to push a new state law in the next legislative session that would give pregnant and parenting students, boys and girls, up to 14 days of absences a semester, excused or unexcused. Typically students get a maximum of 10 per semester. Students missing that time would have to make up all work or missed tests.

Another part of the proposal would give new teen moms 10 days worth of maternity leave.

"10 days after somebody gives birth to their child where they can be home to bond with their child and recover from the birth," Smith said.

Similar proposals in other states have been met with mixed response in the past. An attempt to make maternity leave mandatory at Denver Public Schools met resistance from a national group Concerned Women for America, who argued that teen maternity leave effectively rewards teens who get pregnant and promotes out-of-wedlock sex.

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New Mexico (change)

New Mexico is located in the southwestern region of the U.S. Inhabited by Native American populations for many centuries, New Mexico has also been part of Imperial Spain, part of Mexico, and a U.S. territory.
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Governor: Susana Martinez
Lieutenant Governor: John Sanchez
Attorney General: Gary King
Secretary of State: Dianna J. Durán

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