Students fight closure of school for pregnant teens

Former students rallied with signs and chants Monday to keep the doors of the Martha Neilson School open.Many students held up signs with phrases such

THE BRONX - Former students rallied with signs and chants Monday to keep the doors of the Martha Neilson School open.

Many students held up signs with phrases such as "don't judge me." The one-year program, located in Bronx Regional High School, is specifically designed for pregnant students. It is the only school program of its type in the Bronx.

"I felt like I was the only one pregnant young, until I came to this school," student Natasha Valentin said. Valentin is currently enrolled in the program.

According to the Department of Education, the program is a failure. Education officials said attendance is less than 50 percent. They also said many students don't pass their regents exams.

Sistas on the Rise is an advocacy group fighting for the school to remain open. Sharim Algarim, of Sistas on the Rise, said the program can't be judged by statistics. Instead, Algarim said education officials must look at individual success stories.

Algarim said the latest push to close Martha Neilson is the second time the program has been threatened. The Department of Education previously attempted to close the school in 2003. However, Sistas on the Rise prevented them from closing the program.

The Department of Education said pregnant teens will be encouraged to enroll in plans such as a GED plus, which has a proven track record.

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