Staying in School
This part of the guide explains
• your right to stay in your same school if you are pregnant or have a child,
• how to choose another school, if you want, and
• Cal-SAFE, a government program to help you keep going to school.
Can I stay in school if I am pregnant or have a child?
Yes. The law says you have the right to stay in your same school, if you want to. You also have the right to
- change schools, and
- take part in all school activities, including sports, after-school activities, clubs, proms, and graduation.
If your school tells you that you cannot stay in school or take part in school activities because you are pregnant or have a baby, you may be able to get free legal help from the California Women’s Law Center:
- call 1-323-951-1041, or
- visit www.cwlc.org.
Mabel ’s principal says she has to go to a different school now that she is a parent. Is that true?
No. She has the right to stay in the same school or choose another.
Can the school treat me differently because I am pregnant or have a child?
No. It is illegal for the school to treat you unfairly or harass you because you are pregnant or have a child. It is also against the law for you to be treated unfairly because of your
- sexual identity, or
- sexual orientation.
Talk to your school counselor or another adult if you are being treated unfairly for any reason.
If the problem does not go away, call a lawyer. The lawyer will help you no matter how old you are. You can get free legal help at www.lawhelpcalifornia.org.
Do I have to be living with my parents to enroll in school?
No. Any adult that you live with can enroll you in school. But
- your parent or guardian must write a letter saying that the other person can care for you, or
- the person you live with must fill out a Caregiver Affidavit form. This will allow you to sign up for school and get school health care if you need it. You can get the form at www.courts.ca.gov.
If you are not living with an adult, it will be difficult to enroll in school.
What if I am homeless?
Even if you are homeless, you have the right to go to school (the one you’ve been in or a new one). You may be living with friends, at a shelter, or outside the school district.
The school must let you stay even if you do not have some of the information it usually requires, such as
- a home address,
- school or health records, and
- a regular place to live.
The school must also put you in touch with a person called a Homeless Liaison, who works at your school.
How can a Homeless Liaison help me?
Your Homeless Liaison can help you get
- enrolled in school or get your child enrolled,
- rides to and from school, and
- referrals to a doctor, dentist, or counselor.
To get a list of Homeless Liaisons, go to www.cde.ca.gov.
Can I stop going to school because I am pregnant or raising a child?
No. The law says you must go to school until you
- get a certificate of proficiency, or
- turn 18.
Nancy is homeless in a new city. Can she go to school?
Yes. She must go to school until she graduates, gets a certificate of proficiency, or turns 18. There are several ways to do this. To see a list of options, see Can I choose my school?.
Can I miss school to get reproductive health care or because I am pregnant?
You can miss school for health care reasons. Excused absences include
- getting health care services, including abortion (and you have the right to leave school without telling your parents),
- having problems with your pregnancy that make it impossible for you to go to school, and
- giving birth and recovering after birth.
If you miss school because of your pregnancy or a sick child, you do not need a note from your doctor.
Your school must let you leave for confidential services like reproductive health or pregnancy care without your parents’ permission. For more information on confidential services see Birth Control.
Exception: If your school requires all students who miss school for health care reasons to give proof, then you must, too.
Who do I tell if I have to miss school because my child is sick?
Your school office can give you more information about this.
Can I miss school if my child is sick?
You can get an excused absence if you need to miss school because of your child’s health care needs. This includes
- taking your child to regular doctor’s appointments or other health care services,
- staying home to take care of your sick child, and
- taking your sick child to the doctor.
Warning: Some of these rules may be different if you attend a Charter School. Talk with your school counselor about your Charter School’s rules.
Can I make up schoolwork I miss?
Yes. Your school must
- let you make up work you missed,
- let you do a “reasonable equivalent” of the missed classwork, if you cannot do the same work,
- count your missed day(s) as an excused absence, and
- arrange for help, such as a tutor or someone to deliver and pick up assignments if you are out of school for a while.
Important! You must ask your school for help. They may not help you make up your missed work unless you ask them.
Can I breastfeed my child in School?
Yes. The law says you can breastfeed your child anywhere you and your child have a legal right to be. If you are allowed to bring your child to school, you can breastfeed there. You cannot be forced to breastfeed in the bathroom or anywhere you don’t want to be.
Can I choose my school?
Yes. The law says you can choose your school. You can go to any of the following, depending on what’s available in your community:
- your current school,
- a continuation school,
- a GED program,
- independent study,
- adult education classes (the schedule may be better for teen parents),
- community college or Regional Occupation Program (ROP) classes (these give you high school credit, and the classes are free or low-cost for high school students), or
- a school for pregnant and parenting teens (they will have special services to help you during your pregnancy and as a parent).
The choice is yours. No one can make you go to any of these schools instead of your home school, if you do not want to.
How can I decide what school is right for me?
Try to find out as much as you can about the different schools and their programs. Ask these questions:
- Does the school have special programs for pregnant teens and teen parents?
- Can I have a flexible schedule?
- What classes are available?
- What degrees are offered?
- Does the school have the classes I need to get into college later?
- Can I participate in sports or other after-school activities?
- Can I change schools if one does not work out?
It’s a good idea to talk to or email other people about your options, including
- your school counsel
- recent graduates of the schools or programs, and
- other teens at the schools.
You can also search the Internet to find out what people say about each school. Try to visit the schools you like most to see whether they are right for you. If you want to go to college, it is important to find out if the school offers the courses you need to get into the college you choose.
Note: Remember that if you stay at your school, they must support you. Or, if you choose another school, you can still take courses at your old school if you need to.
Are there any special school programs to help me?
Yes. California has programs that help pregnant and parenting students stay in school and do well. They are
- Cal-SAFE, and
- Cal-WORKs Welfare to Work Teen Parent Program. For more about Cal-WORKs, see Programs that Give You Money.
What is Cal-SAFE?
Cal-SAFE stands for California School Aged Families Education. It is a statewide program for middle and high school students under 18 who are pregnant or have a child.
Cal-SAFE lets you stay in school and take care of your child in a supportive environment. About 75 percent of the counties in California have Cal-SAFE programs.
To find out whether there is a Cal-SAFE program near you
- ask at your school,
- call 1-916-319-0541, or
- visit www.cde.ca.gov.
What services can I get from Cal-SAFE?
Services depend on your needs and how much money the program has. Besides regular high school classes, Cal-SAFE may give you
- parenting and life-skills classes,
- nutrition supplements while you are pregnant or breastfeeding,
- childcare for your child at your school or nearby, and
- information about services in your community.
You might also get
- help getting ready to have your baby,
- education and counseling about
– health, including family planning,
– school safety
– alcohol and drug-abuse prevention, and
– child-abuse and dating-violence prevention
- extra meals and snacks,
- tutors, mentors, and internships,
- job counseling and training,
- alcohol and drug-abuse treatment,
- mental health services, and
- other services.
Note: If you get certain services from another aid program (like AFLP), you will not get them from Cal-SAFE.
Is the Cal-SAFE program right for me?
Maybe. Think about what you need. Cal-SAFE may make it easier to finish school while you are pregnant or raising your child, but you should make sure that the Cal-SAFE school is right for you before changing schools.
What is the Cal-WORKs Welfare to Work Teen Parent Program?
If you get Cal-WORKs, you must participate in Welfare to Work. If you are under 20, are pregnant in your third trimester or have a child, and have not finished high school, you can get Cal-WORKs while going to school.
You may be able to stay in Cal-WORKS after you graduate while you look for work, get more job training or while you are working if you are very low income.
What can I get from Cal-WORKs Welfare to Work?
Cal-WORKs, sometimes called “welfare,” provides cash grants and services to very low-income families to help support them while they work or go to school. You may also get services to help you in school such as childcare, transportation to school, money for school expenses like books or school fees, and counseling or therapy if you need it.
Cal-WORKs also gives you bonuses if you do well in school!
- If you earn at least a 2.0 GPA, you can get a $100 bonus up to four times a year. If you are on your parents’ Cal-WORKs, your parents will get the bonus.
- You can also get a $500 bonus if you graduate or earn your GED.
Important! Save your report cards! You will have to show them to your Welfare to Work worker in order to get your bonuses.
Be careful: You can also lose your Cal-WORKs cash grant and services if you don’t go to school regularly without a good excuse or don’t make progress in your classes.
How do I get Cal-WORKs?
You can enroll in Cal-WORKs with your family or sometimes on your own if you don’t live with your parents, have a child or are pregnant in your third trimester. You must apply at your local welfare office. You can find out more about applying for Cal-WORKs at your local Legal Aid office.
To find a local county welfare office:
- visit www.cwda.org
- or call 1-916-443-1749
To find a Legal Aid office near you:
- visit www.lsc.gov