UPDATE Wednesday: The school is changing its policy. The Associated Press reports that the school chairman said no one at the school realized there was anything wrong with the policy until the American Civil Liberties Union’s state chapter threatened to sue.
A Louisiana charter school is in the news this week for its policy of mandating pregnancy tests for female students if there are any suspicions that the girls are pregnant. And then kicks out anyone who is pregnant.
Dehli Charter School in Dehli, La., has 600 students in grades k-12 and presents its pregnancy policy as an effort to maintain its high standard for student character.
In its policy book, Dehli Charter School states: “The school reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test to confirm whether or not the suspected student is in fact pregnant. The school further reserves the right to refer the student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Dehli Charter School.”
The policy goes on to say that the student can purchase a homeschooling program if she wishes to continue her education.
So what happens if a student refuses to take a pregnancy test?
The policy states, “Any student who is suspected of being pregnant and refuses to submit to a pregnancy test shall be treated as a pregnant student and will be offered home study opportunities.”
Among the many criticisms of this policy, including what appear to be blatant violations of federal law: The policy does not address male students who engage in sexual relations that result in a pregnancy.
“The pregnancy policy violates the rights of every girl at Delhi Charter School,” said Marjorie R. Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “Every girl is at risk of being subject to intrusive medical testing, and possibly forced out of school, for reasons that have nothing to do with her education.”
“The right to attend school and to participate fully in activities cannot be denied simply because a student is, or may be, pregnant,” said Galen Sherwin of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project. “Pregnancy is not a disease, and schools may not treat it that way. The administrators of Delhi Charter School should be ashamed that they seek to deprive students of the benefits of going to school every day.”
Today, the ACLU of Louisiana and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project asked Delhi Charter School to immediately suspend this discriminatory and illegal policy.
The policy’s complete disregard for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities, is astonishing. Title IX and its regulations explicitly mandate that schools cannot exclude any student from an education program or activity, “including any class or extracurricular activity, on the basis of such student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.”
Besides violating Title IX, the policy is also in violation of the Constitution’s due process right to procreate, and equal protection: it treats female students differently from male students and relies on archaic stereotypes linked to sex and pregnancy.
Approximately 70 percent of teen girls who give birth leave school, due in part to illegal discrimination. Schools should be supporting pregnant and parenting teens that face numerous barriers to completing their education, not illegally excluding them from school. The ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project protects the rights of pregnant and parenting teens through advocacy, education, and litigation, working to combat the push-out of pregnant and parenting teens from school.
Looking over the school’s lengthy policy handbook, the school also permits corporal punishment . One of the considerations of whether and how to use physical discipline on students is: “The student’s ability to bear the punishment.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog