SOUTH BEND — South Bend educators and community members are coming to the defense of a longstanding program serving teen mothers after administrators unexpectedly announced its discontinuance last month.

Wrapped into recommendations to close and restructure several other schools in a multiyear “right sizing” effort, South Bend Community School Corp. leaders called for the closure of the district’s School Age Mothers Program during a late January school board meeting.

Shocked by the proposal, more than a dozen current and former staff, students and community members submitted letters in support of the program they say keeps students engaged at a time where the pressure to drop out couldn’t be greater.

“It’s one of the best kept secrets of the South Bend Community School Corporation,” said Jackie Swihart, who taught in the program for three years. “I genuinely don’t think many of them would’ve graduated without the attention.”

Now, district leaders say, they feel their late January proposal has been misinterpreted and that their intention was never to completely shutter the program, but rather to “discontinue the program as currently designed.”
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