By Santee Ross, University of Montana
Being an adolescent girl is hard enough without being publicly humiliated by the school that you attend.
Earlier this month a lawsuit was filed in New Mexico stating that a young Navajo girl was forced to announce her pregnancy in a school assembly.
Forcing a young girl to endure public humiliation of that nature is appalling. I hope with every bit of my heart that this girl wins the case.
Initially the school tried to kick her out for her pregnancy and when she didn’t leave, she was forced to announce her pregnancy in front of the entire school.
Forcing a young girl to announce her private matter to her classmates and school faculty when it’s none of their business to begin with is just wrong. It’s not the puritan era anymore people, she doesn’t need to wear a scarlet letter.
However, teen pregnancy is a huge concern in Indian Country. It’s not uncommon for young Native girls to become pregnant.
Rates for Native teen pregnancy are higher than the national average according to the CDC. According to a 2009 study by the CDC Native American teens between the ages of 15 and 19 years old had the third highest pregnancy rate.
There are just so many factors when it comes to teen pregnancy that it’s hard to monitor the foundations of issue.
According to the CDC website, those factors are lack of access to or poor use of contraceptives, living in poverty, having parents with low levels of education, poor performance in school and growing up in a single-parent household.
Reservations can more than likely check yes to all the above and shows like “Teen Mom” don’t help any.
All these factors play a part in teen pregnancy without having to place all the blame on an individual girl’s choices. Yes she chose to be sexually active but without access to contraceptives or even the knowledge of safe sex techniques, it’s not fair to force her to play the part of Hester Prynne.
In a sense, there is already an “invisible” scarlet letter that young Native girls or any young girls wear; the whispered rumours that are spread and unspoken shame within the family are those invisible letters.
I believe those letters are enough for a young girl to deal with without having to publicly humiliate her.
Santee Ross (Lakota/Hopi) is from Lander, Wyo.