Students Must Speak With Caution

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At the beginning of this school year, juniors Sydney Kadinger and Shannel O’Neal decided they wanted to create a pro-choice club at the school so like-minded students could come together under a common forum and inform people that abortion is an accessible option. They turned in their required form near the end of August. After some time, they finally got back a response. According to O’Neal, their proposal was rejected, and their application was covered in red pen. Confused, they tweaked a few areas of the application and sent in the form again. Once more, their idea was rejected. Kadinger and O’Neal submitted the application in a third time, and again it was denied. Finally, out of frustration, Kadinger brought the case up with Principal John Williams, who finally approved it.

Screen Shot 2013-12-12 at 2.29.05 PMKadinger, who is now the president of the Teens with a Choice club, said, “The justification that the school gave me was that Indiana state standards mandate a stress on abstinence, so you cannot really teach anything besides abstinence in Indiana. Because my club would go into safe sex or abortion, we weren’t allowed to have it.”

O’Neal said she vehemently disagrees with this concept; she said schools should teach both abstinence and safe sex equally and objectively. By stressing one over the other, O’Neal said she thinks the school is fostering a bias. According to her, people must be thoroughly informed about both options so that they can make an educated choice about which route is best for them.

“Abstinence would work beautifully in a pristine world. However, the fact of the matter is our world is not pristine,” she said. “Teenagers are and will have sex; it’s a natural process. It’s imperative that in that case we teach them about safe sex. Planned Parenthood gives out free condoms and STI testing. The fact that a lot of people don’t know that is alarming.”

According to a post released in July 2013 by the National State of Legislatures, the United States still has the highest pregnancy rate among industrialized countries, despite the recent decline in teen pregnancies. The report also states that teen mothers are less likely to finish high school and are more likely than their peers to live in poverty, depend on public assistance and have poor health. Moreover, their children are more likely to suffer from health disadvantages and come into contact with child welfare and correctional systems. These costs add up, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, which estimates that teen childbearing costs taxpayers at least $10.9 billion annually.

“We must educate everyone properly. We have to. It’s not an option. This stuff is real, and it’s happening,” O’Neal said. “I know for a fact that it has to be scary and just nearly impossible to deal with. There are institutions out there. There is abortion, there is Planned Parenthood, and people must be informed about them.”

According to Kadinger, many people have fostered misconceptions about what it means to be pro-choice.

“We don’t want to protest or hold up picket signs,” she said. “We just want to empower women with information about what’s out there and how they can deal. This is serious.”

 

"When the girls approached me about the club, I knew there was a pro-life club, so I thought there should be a voice for young ladies and men in the building who were pro-choice." Kevin Daly, Teens with a Choice sponsor NIVEDHA MEYYAPPAN / PHOTO
“When the girls approached me about the club, I knew there was a pro-life club, so I thought there should be a voice for young ladies and men in the building who were pro-choice.”
Kevin Daly, Teens with a Choice sponsor
NIVEDHA MEYYAPPAN / PHOTO

Fair and Impartial 

Earlier this year, the Indiana State Legislature introduced Senate Bill (SB) 454, which would mandate medically accurate sex education and would require factual, age-appropriate instruction in public schools and accredited nonpublic schools on human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases. This bill would overhaul Indiana’s current abstinence-focused sex education policy. Although SB 454 was referred to the Committee on Education and Career Development, it did not progress.

Principal John Williams said  the school’s job is to remain neutral and to make sure that like-minded individuals have a place to discuss and meet within the bounds
of the school. However, the administration does not want a group promoting any personal ideology.

“We are all captive audiences here. You have to come here every day, you have to walk down our hallways, and you don’t get to choose that. So we are pretty conservative as to what we expose our kids to, as far as positions and beliefs,” Williams said.

Williams said it is imperative for the school to remain impartial. Regardless of what is being taught, abstinence or sexual education, it’s essential to show a comprehensive view of both sides and not favor one or the other.

Williams also said the school must be careful to keep a neutral stance.

“We, administratively, are responsible (for keeping) our antenna up. We have to look at what we are exposing our students to and most importantly whether or not it is outside the scope of our responsibility to provide that kind of information,” Williams said.

According to Williams, the administration often does not fully understand the intent of creating certain clubs. In those cases, Williams said it likes to talk to those individuals; it is not unusual to have conversation about how exactly the group plans on going about things. However, the administration definitely does not want any club to promote any specific individual belief.

Nancy Spencer, family and consumer science department head, said that the interpersonal relations course (IPR) does not favor one side or the other.

“The education is just that there are choices. The teachers themselves are not allowed to teach their own personal beliefs as well,” she said.

Untitled-5However, Spencer said the IPR course does attempt to foster an environment where students can easily have their views heard.

“The class structure allows us to have dialogue from both sides,” she said. “That’s something IPR teaches: the ability to have an opinion and not to be judged for it, but to be heard.”

Nonetheless, Kadinger and O’Neal said there are still holes in the current education system that need to be filled as soon as possible.

Kadinger said, “Statistics are out there, and, quite frankly, are alarming. Something really needs to change. No harm can come from more education. For most of us, school is the one place we can definitely obtain objective information—information that we really need.”

 

A Voice Heard

“I’m a baby, not a choice. Did you hear that, Sydney? No abortion.” These are the words Kadinger hears as she sits cross-legged on the ground in the back hallway of the second-floor E Rooms. She grabs her The American Pageant textbook and a green one-subject notebook out of her black backpack. She shrugs, turns around to see a girl’s fleeing back and continues to take notes.

Kadinger said, “I’ve been called a baby-killer. I’ve been called a heretic. Heck, I’ve even been told I’m going to hell.”

According to her, these accusations are baseless. Just as the term “pro-choice” implies, she advocates solely for a choice. She said people should have the right to make their own decisions. Additionally, in order to make the best choice, Kadinger said, the individual must be presented with all available options, including abortion and Planned Parenthood.

Kadinger shares this view with approximately 23 percent of the American population according to a Pew Research study published in 2013. She does not think of abortion as an issue of morals, but rather as a viable option. The study also revealed that 49 percent of Americans consider abortion to be immoral, while a smaller 15 percent of Americans consider abortion to be moral.  Kadinger argues that – regardless of morality or personal beliefs – information about abortion must be readily spread to allow an individual to make an educated decision, and that is the goal of her club.

“If I had a child right now, my life would be over. I wouldn’t be able to attend college in the way I want to. I wouldn’t be able to play softball. It would take away so much from my future, whereas I could reach my full potential if I did not have the child,” Kadinger said. “At the end of the day, neither I nor the baby would be happy. This is where the option of abortion comes in.”

Kevin Daly, Teens with a Choice sponsor, said, “When the girls approached me about the club, I knew there was a pro-life club, so I thought there should be a voice for young ladies and men in the building who were pro-choice.”

Daly said public schools particularly need to have a pro-choice club if there is a pro-life club for students who think differently.

According to the Guttmacher Institute, 19 percent of teens who have had sexual intercourse become pregnant each year. Seventy-eight percent of these pregnancies are unplanned and six in 10 teen pregnancies occur among 18 to 19-year-olds.

Kadinger said she has seen the horrors of unplanned pregnancy up close.

“A few of my relatives had children at a really young age. You can tell that it put a lot of stress on them. They did not get the jobs that they wanted or the opportunities that other people have. They had to get married at an extremely early age, and the child basically consumed a big portion of their life. They came to spite both the marriage and the child, and you can see how that impacted the baby and the relationship: They ended up getting a divorce and the child was left exceptionally unhappy,” Kadinger said. “Even if you look at the adoption system, most of those kids have to deal with the idea of being abandoned, and they just don’t come out happy. Mothers who are substance abusers have children that are actually sick from birth and have deadly defects. It makes the child so unhappy that it’s just not a good place for the child to be, whereas if you had gotten the abortion you wouldn’t have had to put the child in this stressful situation in the first place. You could have saved your life and the child’s life.”

Junior Sydney Kadinger created Teens for a Choice this year and stands here proudly displaying her beliefs. Kadinger said she created the club because she believes people should be educated about controversial topics, regardless of any moral or social stigma against them. NIVEDHA MEYYAPPAN / PHOTO
Junior Sydney Kadinger created Teens for a Choice this year and stands here proudly displaying her beliefs. Kadinger said she created the club because she believes people should be educated about controversial topics, regardless of any moral or social stigma against them. NIVEDHA MEYYAPPAN / PHOTO
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