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Yearbook photos of teen moms spark backlash, support

Many parents — and quite a few students — are not happy about a two-page spread in an Arizona high school yearbook that features teenage students who are either pregnant or have babies.

Pages 40 and 41 of this year’s Mesa High School yearbook have sparked an outpouring of emotional feedback from parents and grandparents concerned about seeing teen pregnancy portrayed in a positive light. Many have worried that the prominent display of attractive family photos in a yearbook could glamorize teen parenthood and make it look appealing.

Mesa High School's 2013-14 yearbook features two pages titled "I'm Working a Double Shift," a reference to the responsibilities of high school students who also are parents.Today

“It makes it look cute and ‘I’m doing so great,’” Shelly Adams, a Mesa High parent, told 12 News NBC in Arizona. “And it’s wonderful that they’re still in school and they’re trying to finish up their education, but at the same time it doesn’t really convey the reality of what they are going through.”

Shelly Adams, mom of a Mesa High School student, said the yearbook pages might send the wrong message to teens.Today

Grace Edwards, a grandmother of a Mesa High School student, agreed: “My main message is wait — wait for the right time, which would not be when you’re in high school.”

But one psychologist who works with adolescents has a different take on the matter: She says the inclusion of teen moms and their babies in the yearbook is “all good.”

“I’ll tell you why,” Dr. Barbara Greenberg, a clinical psychologist who has specialized in the treatment of adolescents for 30 years, told “We have, as a community, been doing a disservice to our girls for a long time by making them live with shame and embarrassment and secrets.

“And you know what shame and embarrassment and secrets lead to? They lead to anxiety and depression. Teenage girls have three times the rate of depression as teen boys ... because we encourage them to be people pleasers and good little girls, and to keep secrets.”

Clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg said the yearbook’s photo spread is of huge value for all students, particularly girls.Today

Greenberg said it’s smart for parents to encourage their teens to wait until they’re older to start families. But rather than being a cause for alarm, she said a yearbook portrayal of teen parents struggling to finish school while raising kids can be a “fantastic teaching opportunity.”

“It takes a lot more than seeing a picture of kids with their parents to make someone want to have a kid,” Greenberg said. “You can use these pictures as a talking point and ask them, ‘So what do you think of these pictures?’ And you can talk about the difficulties of raising a kid while in high school, with empathy and from the heart. ... It’s a teaching moment.”

Mesa Public Schools spokeswoman Helen Hollands said Monday that no changes will be made to the yearbook.

“Yearbooks are an opportunity to commemorate students' school activities and achievements,” Hollands said in a statement to TODAY on Tuesday afternoon. “The material presented on several pages in the student life section of the Mesa High School yearbook reflects choices made outside of the school environment. The feedback received about the subject matter will help refine the judgment used when determining content in future yearbooks.”