- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 6, 2017

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) - A new Nebraska law requires all school districts to adopt policies outlining how they’ll address a number of challenges faced by pregnant or parenting students.

The bill was approved last month despite objections from some rural senators who said that smaller school districts don’t need another mandate regarding teen parents, the Omaha World-Herald (https://bit.ly/2rFfVao ) reported.

Sen. Tony Vargas, D-Lincoln, said his bill was prompted by an American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska records request showing that only 17 percent of schools had formal policies addressing the breast-feeding needs of students and that some students have reported not having a private or sanitary place to breast-feed or pump.

“It’s not that we don’t do a good job as the state of Nebraska to support pregnant and parenting students, it’s that we do an inconsistent job,” Vargas said.

The first part of the law requires public, private and parochial schools to accommodate teen moms who breast-feed and to provide a private space where they can pump and store milk.

The second part requires public school boards to create policies addressing student absences, providing alternate coursework and identifying quality child care options.

While federal gender and education law as well as another state law prohibit schools from discriminating on the basis of sex and pregnancy, teen parents still face challenges when it comes to finishing school.

Organizations such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that only 40 to 50 percent of teen moms earn a high school diploma by age 22.

Susie Gonzalez, 19, said she would miss class at Omaha South High School in the event of morning sickness during pregnancy. After giving birth to her son during her junior year, she found herself only finishing homework in the middle of the night between feedings. After struggling with reliable child care and finances, she dropped out.

“Back then, I thought, ‘I have to get working, because he needs diapers,’” Gonzalez said. “If I had stayed in school I’d probably be working a better job now with a diploma.”

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Information from: Omaha World-Herald, https://www.omaha.com

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