LOS ANGELES - The ACLU of Southern California announced today a final settlement has been reached in the Antelope Valley that will ensure pregnant and parenting teens have equal access to educational opportunities.
The settlement comes more than a year after the ACLU/SC filed suit on behalf of two high school students enrolled in the Antelope Valley Union High School District against the district and the Los Angeles County Office of Education over their operation of the California School Age Families Program (Cal-SAFE) for pregnant and parenting teens.
"Cal-SAFE provides child care, parenting classes, and other services to teen parents so they can stay in school," said Ranjana Natarajan, a staff attorney for the ACLU/SC. "Before this lawsuit, teen parents in Cal-SAFE couldn't choose what kind of education they wanted, and now they have the choice to take all their classes on a regular campus with their peers."
Prior to the settlement, Antelope Valley high school students did not have the option of participating in state-funded supportive programs while being enrolled full-time in regular school courses, including college preparatory classes. The settlement ensures that the three Antelope Valley schools, which offer Cal-SAFE programs through the Los Angeles County Office of Education, provide students with services such as child care and parenting and life skills instruction without denying them access to classes at their high school.
"I'm glad we all reached this agreement," said Cecilia [not her real name], an Antelope Valley High School senior, who as a part of the settlement was allowed to attend the regular school and receive supportive services from the Cal-SAFE program. "Now students who are parents can take college prep classes so they can go to college and their children can have a better life."
The California legislature passed a law creating the Cal-SAFE program in 1998. It was designed to provide pregnant and parenting students with support services necessary to stay in school, in response to the high dropout rate among the nearly 60,000 teens who become pregnant every year.
The original suit, which was filed in September 2004, named the Antelope Valley Union High School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education as defendants and alleged violations under state and federal law, including Title IX. Cecilia G. and Keyana M., who graduated in June, were the named plaintiffs.