Imagine that you are 15 years old, summoned to your school gymnasium, made to stand in the middle of an assembly while school officials announce to 400 of your classmates and teachers that you are pregnant. Until that point, no one knew that you were pregnant except your sister. Then imagine that you’re forced to leave school because you’re deemed a “bad example” for your fellow classmates. This is allegedly what happened to Shantelle Hicks of Gallup, New Mexico.
According to Hicks, right after the announcement was made; boys began to kick the back of her chair and called her “Mama Bear” while other students demanded to feel her abdomen. She felt publically humiliated and bullied. Enter the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Hicks filed a civil lawsuit against her school seeking punitive damages. The ACLU states that Hick’s suspension from school was unconstitutional. Two weeks prior to the announcement, Hicks’ mother informed the school that she was pregnant. The school officials asked her to leave Wingate Elementary School that is under the administration of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The school, that has grades 1 through 8, felt that she was “a bad example for other girls.” Hicks’ mother contacted the ACLU and they informed the school that it was illegal to deny a student access to education for being pregnant. When she returned 4 days, they made that very public announcement that Hicks believes was intended to force her to leave but she refused.
Teen pregnancy is nothing new and neither is public humiliation. We know that 39 out of 1,000 women in the U.S. are pregnant between ages 15 to 19 and approximately 409,000 babies were born to teen moms. But does this give the Bureau of Indian Affairs the right to treat Hicks like a character out of the infamous novel, The Scarlet Letter? Where is the objectivity?
Hicks gave birth on February 7th and will return to school of March 19th. She plans to graduate from school and pursue a degree in nursing or criminology.
Do you think public humiliation will reduce pregnancy? Let me know what you think.