Yearbooks aren’t usually known for diving into touchy topics like teen pregnancy. But one high school yearbook editor decided to do just that — and it’s causing major controversy at the school.
Anderson Bonilla, yearbook editor at Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Va., wanted to represent different groups of students at the school and feature them in a two-page spread in the yearbook, including teen moms like 17-year-old Hannah Talbert. “We want to show the real world of what Mount Vernon is,” Bonilla told the Washington Post. “We wanted to report something worth knowing.”
In the spread, Bonilla used selfies from Talbert’s Instagram account, including one of Talbert (above) standing in front of her bathroom mirror while visibly pregnant.
Talbert was excited to be a part of the feature since it represented her personal experience at the high school. “I think that it’s important to be in there because there are a lot of teen moms at our school, and it’s a really big misconception that you can’t be successful or happy anymore,” she told ABC News.
Talbert, who gave birth to her son Logan seven months ago, is still attending high school full-time thanks to the support of her parents. “A lot of teen moms drop out of school, and she’s trying to show that you can still go to school and get an education,” Tracy Perkins, Talbert’s mother, told ABC News. “Going to school full-time and doing all that stuff, yes, it’s hard, but she’s still doing it and she’s doing it successfully.”
But Esther Manns, the principal of the high school, told Bonilla and Talbert that the controversial topic and photos weren’t allowed in the yearbook. Bonilla considers this a violation of his First Amendment rights and is seeking legal representation from the Student Press Law Center.
In the meantime, the controversial yearbook feature is in limbo. “No final decisions have been made regarding the content in question,” John Torre, a spokesperson for the high school, tells Yahoo Parenting. Torre forwarded a statement from principal Manns, which said that yearbook content requiring the principal’s approval is not a new practice. “For the 12 years that I have supervised the Mount Vernon High School Yearbook, I have reviewed the content prior to submission,” she said in a statement.
But is it harmful or helpful to do a feature on teen moms in a high school yearbook? “The problem is it’s a mixed message,” Sophia Yen, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children’s Health’s Teen and Young Adult Clinic and a clinical associate professor at Stanford University School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Parenting. In some cases, it can send the message that getting pregnant as a teen isn’t a big deal and doesn’t come with serious downsides and sacrifices, or it may serve as a cautionary tale, according to Yen.
“Shows like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom have actually helped reduce teen pregnancy rates because they show the dark side,” says Yen. “They show the boyfriend leaving them and how the teen moms want to go do something but they can’t because they have to take care of their kid, who is snotty and crying.”
Yen says that in the best-case scenario, the yearbook spread has a balanced picture. “Praise and commend the teen moms for making lemonade out of lemons by continuing to go to school,” she says. “If you are pregnant, definitely don’t drop out — this is the best thing you can possibly do. But not everyone has their parents’ support to do that.”
She adds: “Make it clear that this isn’t a desired path, that there are things they missed out on and that they wish they hadn’t done things this way. Otherwise, you’re glamorizing teen pregnancy and normalizing it — and that’s not what we want to do.”
Teen mom Hannah Talbert (Photo: Hannah_t/Instagram)