Some adults dismissed the statistic as a blip. Others blamed hit movies like Juno and Knocked Up for glamorizing young unwed mothers. But principal Joseph Sullivan knows at least part of the reason there's been such a spike in teen pregnancies in this Massachusetts fishing town. School officials started looking into the matter as early as October after an unusual number of girls began filing into the school clinic to find out if they were pregnant. By May, several students had returned multiple times to get pregnancy tests, and on hearing the results, "some girls seemed more upset when they weren't pregnant than when they were," Sullivan says. All it took was a few simple questions before nearly half the expecting students, none older than 16, confessed to making a pact to get pregnant and raise their babies together. Then the story got worse. "We found out one of the fathers is a 24-year-old homeless guy," the principal says, shaking his head.
Now there are lots of problems with the scenario and the reprecussions are many. This was particularly problematic for me:
The girls who made the pregnancy pact—some of whom, according to Sullivan, reacted to the news that they were expecting with high fives and plans for baby showers—declined to be interviewed. So did their parents. But Amanda Ireland, who graduated from Gloucester High on June 8, thinks she knows why these girls wanted to get pregnant. Ireland, 18, gave birth her freshman year and says some of her now pregnant schoolmates regularly approached her in the hall, remarking how lucky she was to have a baby. "They're so excited to finally have someone to love them unconditionally," Ireland says. "I try to explain it's hard to feel loved when an infant is screaming to be fed at 3 a.m."So may question is, what in these girls lives made them think that there were not people who loved them unconditioally. The choice these girls made have made it much more difficult for them to make it in life. Statistics shows that unwed, single mother without a high school diploma are far more likely to live in poverty than any other group of women in the country. Sure, the school appears to have made efforts to keep the young mothers in school ("Sex-ed classes end freshman year at Gloucester, where teen parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center. Strollers mingle seamlessly in school hallways among cheerleaders and junior ROTC. "We're proud to help the mothers stay in school," says Sue Todd, CEO of Pathways for Children, which runs the day-care center."), but really, this is a troubling sign. Apparently, the sex-ed classes need to spend a little more time on contraception and the consequences of unprotected sex--not just STDs but pregnancy, and the financial impact of being pregnant. Motherhood is not cheap, even when you are married.
Simply put, there was no one watching out for these girls until it was too late. Now this community will have a baby boom based on a silly pact.