Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Iqaluit October 05, 2018 - 10:40 am

Iqaluit DEA calls for school daycare to prioritize teen mother

“We support the student parent and want her to be placed immediately"

Nicole Alexander, 17, currently brings her infant to class with her at Iqaluit's Inuksuk High School. She had hoped to place her child in the school's daycare, but she's been told there's no room. The daycare was originally created for students, but today, most of its spaces are taken by the children of non-students. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)
Nicole Alexander, 17, currently brings her infant to class with her at Iqaluit's Inuksuk High School. She had hoped to place her child in the school's daycare, but she's been told there's no room. The daycare was originally created for students, but today, most of its spaces are taken by the children of non-students. (PHOTO BY COURTNEY EDGAR)

Correction, 5:40 p.m., Oct. 5

Inuksuk High School’s daycare has lost sight of its original mandate to help students with young children, says the chair of the Iqaluit District Education Authority.

This criticism follows the daycare’s decision to not admit the child of a 17-year-old student.

Because the daycare is full, Nicole Alexander has been attending school with her eight-month-old son, Jake.

Alexander is not allowed in the regular classroom with her peers. Instead, she studies with a computer from the back of the sewing room with a playpen beside her.

“We support the student parent and want her to be placed immediately,” said Doug Workman, the chair of the DEA.

Due to a communications mix-up, Nunatsiaq News was not able to obtain a full comment from the daycare’s board prior to the online publication of this story today.

Workman said that he pressed the daycare’s board of directors at a meeting on Monday to understand why a student parent is not being prioritized at the school’s daycare, which was created in 1994 to serve students.

He said he left the meeting confused.

“We do not understand why Nicole is not getting placed. They have reasons, but do not have clear reasons,” Workman said.

According to Workman, the daycare has 24 spots. Of those, five are used by the children of students, while the rest are used by non-students.

Workman said he would like to see the service revert to its original mandate: student parents as first priority, school staff second and general public last.

He said the daycare has changed its policies in the past few years, and now refuses to bump a non-student’s child to make room for a new teen mom.

Alexander is the only student at the Iqaluit high school who has had to bring a child to class as a long-term solution, said Jean-Philippe Laprise, the communications manager for the Department of Education.

When Erika Alexander, Nicole’s mother, was pregnant with Nicole as a teen back in 2001, the daycare would bump a non-student to make room for a student.

In fact, even today, Arctic College has a similar policy of prioritizing childcare for students rather than non-students. Erika knows this because her other young daughter was bumped out of Arctic College’s daycare recently to make room for the child of a student.

That’s how a school daycare should function, Erika said. She credits the school daycare as the main reason she was able to complete high school and wants that same opportunity for her daughter.

Alexander refused to miss school despite not having access to a daycare, so she brought her infant with her inside her amauti.

But during the first week, when Alexander breastfed the child in class, she was asked to go the counsellor’s office, she said. She said this left her feeling discouraged and she considered dropping out.

Education officials wouldn’t comment on the specific treatment of Alexander, but did say that breastfeeding is allowed in the classrooms of Inuksuk High School.

“We can only state that in a situation like the one you’re asking for, the school usually tries to find a solution that works for the student in collaboration with the IDEA and the parents,” said Laprise.

“The department and the school will encourage students to stay in school and to learn within the school environment and with her peers.”

Workman, however, suggests that Alexander was moved into a separate classroom for liability reasons—and that chemistry and gym classes could be dangerous for an infant.

Alexander said she knows that there are six or seven other pregnant students or young moms in her high school Saputiit class, which teaches girls things like healthy cooking and parenting skills.

She said one of her friends told her she did not want to go back to school because of how Alexander has been treated.

According to Laprise, the high school encourages young mothers to continue their education by helping them submit applications for the Young Parents Stay Learning program, which would subsidize childcare—if they had daycare placement.

He added that the Saputiit program and the guidance counsellors at the school are in place to help students make healthy life choices.

Workman said that the Iqaluit DEA is in the process of arranging meetings with the daycare board to advocate for prioritizing teen mothers like Alexander who need childcare, so they can finish high school.

An earlier version of this story contained incorrect information. It was not the daycare board’s chair, Shauna Beaton, who replied to messages left by Nunatsiaq News. It was the vice-chair, Julia Landry, who replied to messages, via voice mail. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

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(18) Comments:

#1. Posted by Former IHS student on October 05, 2018

I hope this works out for her.  I was a teen mom in Iqaluit trying to finish my high school but the “daycare” at IHS wouldn’t accept my baby for reasons I still don’t know today so I had to quit High school.  I too would bring my baby with me but in reality, there is no support for teen moms (I betcha though a teen dad shows up, he will get the support - stigma towards females, esp towards young teen moms).  I’m glad this was brought to light.

#2. Posted by Past IHS Daycare User on October 05, 2018

The program was for students, further to this, the daycare is using IHS space and should therefore accommodate students as priority! The funding scheme at that daycare has also been abused by past employees who directed that daycare.

#3. Posted by Jason R on October 05, 2018

Sent to the office for breastfeeding, really? How bad was that wind? We must have got blown back to 1937.

#4. Posted by Very sad on October 05, 2018

Of course the daycare’s decision is deeply flawed. But this article unintentionally raises a bigger issue that should be discussed being the unacceptably high rate of teenage pregnancy in Nunavut. My God, Nicole’s mother Erika was pregnant with her as a teenager and had to use the very same high school daycare for Nicole so she (the mother) could attend school!!  Two generations of kids born in a span of seventeen years (a span in which many kids in the south go without even having sex). Think about that!!!

Let’s be honest, kids having kids is practically admired and celebrated up here. Until that changes, so many of our social problems and challenges will remain

#5. Posted by Teen Mom on October 05, 2018

#4 - there is teen pregnancy in every part of the world, however, it seems in many parts of the world the parents of teenaged pregnant females either force their child to have an abortion or they “hide” the pregnancy by sending away their pregnant daughter. 
We don’t do that.  Yes it seems many young parents end up leaving their child with grandparents (which also happens all over the world) but there are also many “teen” moms who took responsibility of their actions and kept their child to raise, and struggle to stay in school (exactly like the 2 individuals in the story and myself).  We know what we did, but we obviously took responsibility and do our best and give every ounce of our strength and dignity to face the world of critiques like you.
Kids having kids is not admired or celebrated as you think, but what we do have is immense unconditional LOVE and SUPPORT for our teen parents and grandchildren because that is how our ancestors raised us to be.  Good Luck Nicole!

#6. Posted by sade on October 05, 2018

Look if the Day Care has lost sight of it’s Mandate, then force it to go back to it.
Simple, make room for one student’s baby.
Day Care Board, please remember what it was all supposed to be about.

#7. Posted by Two Daycares on October 05, 2018

What about the daycare at Nakasuk? They don’t take kids until they are two and potty trained. Why make one daycare in a school kick people out and change their rules, and not the other one? Why not force both to take student babies starting at age zero?

Does no one think about the babies? Does no one think it’s a good idea for a baby to bond with their parents for at least the first few months? If not a full year? If it means teenage parents need to sacrifice some time (and either study independently or graduate later), then they would understand better the consequences of their actions, perhaps?

#8. Posted by IHS Daycare was created for students! on October 05, 2018

The IHS daycare was originally established to support students; that is why Inuksuk lost significant space in the building. (two classrooms including a Home Ec. room)  That is the mandate, shouldn’t change….

#9. Posted by Something to Consider on October 05, 2018

There are many factors in play here.
1) An assumption was made that there would be a spot in the daycare for this baby. Everyone who has children knows that you need to put your name on many different lists in the hopes that there may be a spot for your child when you return to work.
2) All daycares are businesses. They need clients, paying, consistent clients to keep it running. Although there is outside funding for individuals to subsidize the costs, it the case of students, attendance (at least in the past) would affect the amount of subsidy that would be received. NO business can run that way.
3) Perhaps a change in policy does need to be made that once a student graduates or withdraws from school or does not meet the minimum attendance to receive funding, their spot then becomes available for another student.
4) There is no mention of this family looking for other options for child care. Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility, not that of the IDEA, the school or Dept of Ed.

#10. Posted by Double the Solution on October 05, 2018

I agree with comment #8 and #10
If there are two daycares in the schools in Iqaluit then of course THE solution is to treat them both the same and make both daycares have the same priorities When I lived in Iqaluit I knew how hard it was to get childcare and at the same time I know its important for students to have childcare. I also know that the minimum entrance into the Nakausk daycare is much stricter than the Inuksuk day care. Apply the same rules to both daycares and then the IDEA has a solution that works!

#11. Posted by In the know on October 05, 2018

The daycare at the high school does not pay rent for the space. The daycare at the high school was started specifically for the students that were pregnant and wanted to finish high school. No other children should be accommodated in the space unless the space is available.  Even then, it should be temporary.

#12. Posted by Workers on October 06, 2018

#12, how do you propose that the workers be paid, supplies purchased, etc? If there are only student babies in the daycare? Are you proposing the high schools students pay? I don’t know too many parent who would bother with a temporary space.

#13. Posted by G on October 08, 2018

Some of these comments are gross. Shaming someone for a teen pregnancy rather than supporting her through a tough time. Sad to see so called adults judging. She is a great mom by the way.

#14. Posted by southern shadow on October 08, 2018

#4 there are millions of people in the south who shadow many teens have babies.  try to not stereotype and you will happier.

#15. Posted by Not Surprised on October 09, 2018

There is a priority policy and student parents come first. All parents entering the daycare are supposed to sign a paper saying they know they can get bumped for a student parent. This current board does not know how to deal with people and has been really concerned with their own self interest. I have heard of many issues with them hiring lawyers to clean up their mistakes (this being one of them).

The problem is that you have volunteers who do not know the business flying by the seat of their pants. I’m in no way surprised that they have let this issue go this far.

I am sure that is a Nakasuk student had a baby they would get a place in the daycare… I don’t hear of a lot of 6th graders having babies though, so I’m guessing that argument is pretty moot.

#16. Posted by Northern Guy on October 09, 2018

Pretty sure that no daycare in Iqaluit accepts children under the age of 12 months because of the specialized care required by younger infants. Once this child reaches that age there should be room for her at the daycare. Shame on the Iqaluit DEA for politicizing what is essentially an operational and regulatory issue. These folks have much bigger fish to fry and are completely ignoring them in favour of this kind of nonsense.

#17. Posted by Jonathan Wright on October 10, 2018

#16:  You just made the best argument why this Mom should be allowed access to daycare and complete high school.  So she can read.  Iqaluit daycares DO accept babies under a year.  Your extrapolation is wrong.

#18. Posted by Powerade on October 10, 2018

It’s sad to see a lot of shaming of teen parents these days. If you think about it, for thousands of years humans naturally would start reproducing in their teens to begin with anyways. It’s modern society that makes it such a struggle for teen parents to get by and develop their education further. The highschool I had never had a student daycare. I remember my classmates who got pregnant had no choice but to drop out and get on financial assistance programs and wait to get a job when their own kid(s) started school years later. And even then, adults would absolutely spit on these women - and their kids, as being a “drain on society”. They got no help from others, but the criticism sure was plentiful.

It’s probably a lot easier to just be kind to people that are trying not to fall through the cracks and help them out.

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