So this week's "ohmygod teens today" story involves the Teenage Pregnancy Pact in Gloucester, Mass., as reported in Time Magazine: Pregnancy Boom at Gloucester High.
The damaging quotes about the girls: "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. "
I'm writing about it here because I find the story disturbing; especially in regards to how teenage girls are viewed, treated, and written about. And the use of the word "pact" and how that affects the story and how the girls -- and the boys/men involved -- are portrayed and viewed.
So here are my questions:
Why did the high school principal believe it was OK to speak about his students? Isn't there some sort of confidentiality when it comes to minors?
Why are the boys/men involved being left off the hook? Yep, I know there is the "manipulative girls, the boys were used" angle, which is why the story of a pact is so juicy, but even if true, the boys/men invovled have a responsibility for their own actions.
Per the Gloucester news report linked to above, about the ages of the fathers-to-be: "Yesterday, police Detective Kenneth Ryan said the department generally only investigates statutory rape cases if a victim has come forward with a complaint and at this point, no high school students or members of their families had done so."
Yet, in other news sources, the town mayor is quoted as saying: "We're at the very early stages of wrestling with the complexities of this problem," she said. "But we also have to think about the boys. "Some of these boys could have their lives changed. They could be in serious, serious trouble, even if it was consensual sex, because of their age – not from what the city could do but from what the girls' families could do," she said.
So there you have it; while the police chief offers a common sense reply (we need a report of a crime to investigate), the mayor's quote seems to indicate that the boys need to be protected from the consequences of their own actions.
What about thinking of the girls? Like, for example, not opening minors up to the ridicule of an article in a national newsmagazine? It's going to be rather easy for the entire school and town to know who the pregnant girls are.
If, of course, the pact as put forth in press story after story is true. And it may not be. As a recent Gloucester Daily Times report shows, their is some doubt on both the pact and the nature of the pact. A local resident says, "her daughter knew some of the girls involved and suggested that any "pact" between them had been made after they were pregnant and was to stay in school and raise the babies together."
According to the Time Magazine, the girls and their families "declined to be interviewed." Which means there is no confirmation from those involved. (Hence my question about the facts.)
Why report the pact as a "fact", if not one of the girls involved confirmed it?
Because the story is just so good -- and plays to all the media's buttons.
Kids influenced by news (Jamie Lynn Spears) and movies like Juno (where, BTW, Juno gives up the baby, so how is that an influence to teens who are going to keep their babies, supposedly?)
Kids looking for love who don't get it at home and the role of parents.
Peer influence v family influence
Kids who need/don't need better sex education/ teaching abstinence/ birth control (really, this is the best part -- the story can be used to spin for any of these issues, and for any position you have on these issues.)
Slutty girls. (I hate that word myself, but there are tons of articles out there about girls today, how they dress, sex, etc. And look how so far the boys -- even the 20something guy -- are viewed as the recieving end of female manipulation.)
Money -- whether its is funding for schools and programs, or welfare.
And, since I have my doubts about the whole "pact", I liked this editorial from the Gloucester Daily Times, tracking the use of the word "pact" as it relates to the story.