A charter school mandates pregnancy tests for students suspected of being pregnant. Is that going too far?

Should a public charter school be able to demand that teens undergo pregnancy tests? (AP Images)

Should a public charter school be able to demand that its students undergo pregnancy tests? (AP Images)

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.

Original post:

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.”

The ACLU has asked the school to end the policy. In a statement issued Monday, the ACLU said:

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

84 comments Add your comment

Beverly Fraud

August 7th, 2012
11:12 am

Well this ought to be a shining example the charter school advocates can hold up LOL

Why not just make it simple and say while you have a right to an education, so do your CLASSMATES; and if you make behavior choices that consistently interfere with THEIR right, you will lose your privileged of being education in this particular educational setting?

And then MEAN it.

You don’t think after the first dozen or so are removed, the rest will get the message? And if they don’t the parents CERTAINLY will.

Katy

August 7th, 2012
11:18 am

” if you make behavior choices that consistently interfere with THEIR right”
How does being pregnant while sitting in a classroom interfere with anyone’s right to an education? I doubt these ladies became pregnant in the middle of biology class.

DJ Sniper

August 7th, 2012
11:24 am

Here’s my question: What kind of punishment will be doled out to male students who get female students pregnant? Will they get kicked out as well, or will they just get a slap on the wrist and be allowed to continue their education?

catlady

August 7th, 2012
11:24 am

Now, THIS I could not support! MYOB, school!

I remember when pregnant, married teachers were “encouraged” to resign once they started to show.

I remember when I was asked what kind of bc we were using when we applied for a loan to buy a house.

Beverly Fraud

August 7th, 2012
11:28 am

Will the pregnant student do the class work?

Will the pregnant student follow the class rules?

What other criteria does there need to be?

Beverly Fraud

August 7th, 2012
11:29 am

“How does being pregnant while sitting in a classroom interfere with anyone’s right to an education?”

EXACTLY my point @Katy. It doesn’t.

Jefferson

August 7th, 2012
11:29 am

Public funded private schools, courts should step in.

Bubba Buttcrack

August 7th, 2012
11:32 am

@catlady 11:24 I hope you told them it was none of their blankety-blank business what type of bc you were using!

Ashley

August 7th, 2012
11:41 am

Since Immaculate Conception is out of the question, what happens to the male students at this school who might be the daddy or engage in teen-sex with other females at this charter school? With the ACLU leading the charge this won’t be resolved anytime soon. Once again a patriarchal society is trying to invade the female womb and dictate how a woman should conduct herself. Educating these boys and girls might be a better solution, instead of showing disdain for a student who might become pregnant. Granted teens becoming pregnant while still in school is a dilemma and still carries social stigma in some circle, but kicking someone out of school for becoming pregnant is plain archaic!

MS MAN

August 7th, 2012
11:41 am

How did this charter get approved? Constitutional issues all over the place. This needed to be a private school, not a public charter. These things are reasons why the charter movement is in danger of not doing what it was intended to do when started in 1990s in Minnesota. This is a tough one to overlook. The charter movement needs to do a better job of managing good vs. bad charters. That being said, a bad charter can exist just like a bad public or bad private school can exist.

jd

August 7th, 2012
11:44 am

Louisiana Charter Schools are held in high esteem by Sen. Chip Rogers. Coming Soon to your county, via State fiat (If you vote for the constitutional amendment).

Beverly Fraud

August 7th, 2012
11:48 am

Well if we ever needed proof that Republicans can be as EQUALLY stupid as Democrats…

Again, will the pregnant student do the class work?

Will the pregnant student follow the class rules?

What more do you need of a student?

Bernie

August 7th, 2012
11:57 am

Thank God for the ACLU! I do hope that the legislators here Georgia have a huge reserve of funds to defend similar actions that will be soon here in Georgia.

You can’t fix STUPID!, but you can SUE when stupid and unconstitutional policies are enacted! and WIN!

Georgia has a well documented History of such misplaced delusional and backwards thinking and many here are only far to glad to follow in the same footsteps!
Similar polices of sort will be coming soon to a CHARTER SCHOOL nearest to YOU! you can count on it!

intown parent

August 7th, 2012
11:58 am

And if she’s pregnant from incest, familial abuse, teacher-power abuse or rape, what then -??

What about the father of the child?

August 7th, 2012
11:58 am

It takes two to tango….but all these administrators seem interested in is policing the bodies of female students.

Forced to take a preganancy test? Really??? So basically they are trying to kick female students out before they even show. What for, exactly? Talk about an abuse of power.

What a bunch of jerks.

Beverly Fraud

August 7th, 2012
12:00 pm

How dare you ask an intelligent question intown parent. You obviously ain’t no God fearin Christian, You obviously are a SPAWN of SATAN!

Maureen Downey

August 7th, 2012
12:14 pm

@intown, I think those are important considerations. (The degree of incest became clear to me 20 years ago when I did a story on a pregnancy clinic that Grady had started for girls under the age of 14. Most of the girls were incest victims. I went to the apartment of a 12-year-old with a baby; she was the victim of sexual abuse by relatives. It is a sobering moment to sit across from a sixth grader holding her infant.)
There are so many wrong things about this policy. Consider the humiliation factor of a 13 or 14 year old girl — already self-conscious about her body — being asked to take a test because she put on weight.
Maureen

williebkind

August 7th, 2012
12:19 pm

Ahhh Haa! See what happens to schools and education when groups like the ACLU jump in. That is why education should be voluntary. No government involvement what so ever. The pregnant teen violated a school policy and the ACLU and you other whacko liberals think she is being discriminated against. You are the problem with education! Like this statement:

“You can’t fix STUPID!, but you can SUE when stupid and unconstitutional policies are enacted! and WIN!”

Now only a flamming whacko liberal socialist would go there! What is unconstitutional? Have you redefined the constitutional again?

williebkind

August 7th, 2012
12:25 pm

Maureen:
Consider the humiliation factor of a 13 or 14 year old girl — already self-conscious about her body — being asked to take a test because she put on weight”

How about the uncomfort of other teens having to endure watching this girl get bigger every day! How about the uncomfort if she screams out in pain! Oh but that is not being sensitive is it. OMG!
I would not want to sit in a learning environment having to see a pregnant girl of underage there. It would be very distracting to me.

DJ Sniper

August 7th, 2012
12:31 pm

Something else to think about: potential HIPPA violations. That alone should shut this thing down.

Williebkind, please let the adults speak on this subject. Also, let’s say you have a daughter and they try to force a pregnancy test on her simply because they think she may be pregnant. I seriously doubt you would be ok with that.

Chunter

August 7th, 2012
12:35 pm

Abject fear and loathing—of competition, accountability and especially the ogre of parental choice … are on display daily here at Get Schooled. First-time readers (should there be any) must keep in mind that this AJC blog functions primarily as a platform for disseminating the teachers’ union viewpoint.

You know, the union viewpoint made infamous by the documentary film WAITING FOR SUPERMAN.

Wondering

August 7th, 2012
12:39 pm

Isn’t it the Supreme Court that said not covering the costs of pregnancy in a benefit plan was not sex discrimination because they would not cover the costs regardless of the gender of the mother to be (some saw this as a trigger for the Civil Rights Act)? Sometimes people say crazy things.

I’d like to see the law force the identification of fathers so child support can be enforced. It is hard to believe that most poor children were born from immaculate conception.

Maureen Downey

August 7th, 2012
12:40 pm

@willie, In that example, I was speaking of a girl who is not pregnant being asked to take a test because a teacher suspected her weight gain was the result of pregnancy.
But in any situation, this seems a policy fraught with problems and minefields.
Maureen

williebkind

August 7th, 2012
12:41 pm

DJ Sniper

August 7th, 2012
12:31 pm
Grown-ups? I would teach my daughter not to have sex at that age–you teenager.

Hillbilly D

August 7th, 2012
12:44 pm

I’d like to see the law force the identification of fathers so child support can be enforced.

I’m not sure if it’s everywhere but in my area, a father has to be named to receive public assistance. That doesn’t mean they’ll ever get any money out of him, though.

Wondering

August 7th, 2012
12:46 pm

In all seriousness, I see the schools policy as wrong and illegal but I don’t see how HIPAA plays in this. I have read both the security and privacy rules. Please explain what I am missing.

As for the legality of the school’s policy, not everything roles back to an explicit statement in the consitution. Many of our civil rights had to be spelled out by Congress through legislation and some come from court rulings. There is nothing in the consitution that specifically says a school cannot capture my urine or take a blood sample, but they better get permission first or they will have a law suit.

Wondering

August 7th, 2012
12:48 pm

Hillbilly D: What area do you live in? It is my understanding that WIC in GA asks but if the Mother refuses to answer, she receives benefits anyway. I simply hate deadbeat dads and want to hold them accountable. Society and nature already hold the mothers accountable.

williebkind

August 7th, 2012
12:51 pm

Ok so she is not pregnant and the teacher thinks she may be pregnant because of weight gain. The teacher then asks for a pregnancy test. So she fills a cup with urine and the test strip is added. Hmmm I just dont see a real problem with this unless it is done and all the school is aware of the test. That could be a problem! But then again ACLU is going to announce to everyone she had a pregnancy test. You educated adults come up with a sensitive answer for everyone. That is what liberals do.

Willow

August 7th, 2012
12:54 pm

They will apply the rules until someone “special” ends up being pregnant in school, same as always. 1966-1970, any girl turning up pregnant got kicked out of high school (I knew a couple of them), until the pregnant girl turned out to be the daughter of the Chairman of the Board of Education. The daughter spent most of senior year very pregnant, and also married to the baby’s father. (After the pregnancy was discovered, but another thing that heretofore was cause for banishment, boy or girl). I actually thought the change was OK because it would have to be applied the same for everyone. Plus, the girl in question was a very nice person whose only fault was falling in love,being a little careless and just plain unlucky. So now, here we are going back to puritanical roots of punishing the “sinner”. This disgusts me.

DJ Sniper

August 7th, 2012
1:01 pm

Willle, it doesn’t matter if you’ve taught you daughter not to have sex at that age and she adheres to that. You mean to tell me that you’re going to be ok with a school forcing your daughter to take a pregnancy test simple because they THINK she might be pregnant? Whether or not the test is announced isn’t even the issue here.

Jack

August 7th, 2012
1:03 pm

Since same-sex marriage is legal in some parts of the USA, maybe the male students ought to be tested for pregnancy also.

Hillbilly D

August 7th, 2012
1:10 pm

Wondering

I live in North GA. It’s been a few years but I know of cases where they had to name somebody. I don’t really know what happens if they refuse. I’m all for making fathers pay but I imagine if he protests, then you have to prove that he’s the father. It’s a mess, anyway you look at it.

Rockerbabe

August 7th, 2012
1:15 pm

Pregnancy is not illegal anywhere in the USA. A girl’s or a woman’s reproductive state is NONE of the school’s, the churche’s or the government’s business until she make it their business. And, her parent’s should back her up. No good will come of this form of discrimination.

I graduated from high school in 1970 and this practice of putting pregnant students out of school was quite prevalent back then. It was shameful and harmful then and the practice remains shameful and harmful to this day.

Pregnancy is often listed as a disability by many of the laws in our country. Disabled citizens cannot be discriminated against with impunity. This is a clear violation of her right to a public education of her choice, a right to be respected for who and what she is and putting her out of school is a form of gender discrimination as the boy who fathered this pregnancy is not suffering the same punishment. This school officials appear to have absolute no understanding of the laws with regard to pregnant women and these actions appear to me to be a violation of a number of laws. I hope the student, her parents and the ACLU sue the hell out of this school for their balant disrespect and disregard for the girl’s constitutional right.

Rockerbabe

August 7th, 2012
1:25 pm

In the medical world, no one can force a patient or a client to take a medical test of any kind without written authorization from the patient. That is why there is so much paperwork. Permission for testing has to be obtained from the patient and if the patient is a minor, then the responsible parent must consent to the testing for it is not done. The only exception I am aware of, is the testing done in the ER when a crisis situation is being treated. Usually the manadatory permissions are obtained later and because if you don’t get permission, the 3rd party medical insurance company will often not pay for the testing.

In the medical world, “forced” testing is considered a form of assault and assault is a felony. No teacher or other education should be put into this situation. No student should be forced to submit to a medical procedure by a non-licensed person. And no student should be put out of school because of pregnancy. Pregnancy is not contagious, it is not illegal, it is not undermining of any type of behavior; it is not unconstitutional; it is what it is, reproduction. To punish a girl for doing what comes naturally, is a crime against women in general and their should be hell to pay for this bad policy.

Jefferson

August 7th, 2012
1:38 pm

War on young women — its your lives girls. Stand up if you don’t like the way the wind is blowing.

Laurie

August 7th, 2012
1:39 pm

Leave it to Louisiana to up the anti on trying to be the most ignorant, backwards, and prejudice state in the south. I assume tax dollars are being used to fund this discrimination as well. My favorite part is where the policy does not address male students who engage in sexual relations that result in a pregnancy. Yep, that’s the shining star on top of this Christmas Tree. Kind of reminds me of some other group who likes to shame and demean their female population… oh yeah, the Taliban. That’s what this reminds me of.

Pride and Joy

August 7th, 2012
1:40 pm

It’s fair ONLY WHEN the boy who got her pregnant is kicked out of school too.

Mountain Man

August 7th, 2012
1:41 pm

“CharterStarter, Too

August 5th, 2012
4:32 pm
@ Brandy – if you know of a charter violating the law by not conducting a lottery or cherry picking, I encourage you to report it to the DOE’s Charter School Division immediately. Charters are committed to serving children….period. Without qualification. Those of us in the charter sector are committed to ensuring this occurs. Having attended (and audited) many, many lotteries through the years, I can tell you that this is the exception versus the rule.”

Are charter schools cherry-picking? I guess we now know the answer.

DJ Sniper

August 7th, 2012
1:42 pm

Here’s more proof that Louisiana is trying to win the race to the bottom. Try to keep your head from exploding when you read this bit of tomfoolery.

http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/07/photos-evangelical-curricula-louisiana-tax-dollars

Laurie

August 7th, 2012
2:09 pm

@DJ Sniper… Oh cool, Dragons really did exist! And, And, And

Laurie

August 7th, 2012
2:10 pm

Embrace it!

August 7th, 2012
2:26 pm

If any school takes money from the taxpayers, it should be mandatory, they follow the same laws. If this is OK in public school, then it should be OK in charter schools. The problem is charter schools want the money we tax payers cough up for education, and run things their own way without any taxpayer control. This will be the downfall to education. The people of Ga better wake up and listen to what is blowing in the wind. We are going down the wrong road for this state.

bootney farnsworth

August 7th, 2012
2:36 pm

is there some kind of requirement which mandates insanity as a pre-requisite service in state politics (legislative and educational)?

absolutely no. since Charter schools are funded with public money, they do not have the right to stipulate this kind of regulation

debbieqd

August 7th, 2012
2:41 pm

Isn’t this typical Republican small government at its finest! First, we take your birth control. Then, we deny you your legal right to abortion. We demand you have your boyfriend’s baby or your father’s baby or your cousin’s or your uncle’s or even your rapist’s. Then, we kick you out of school because we want you uneducated and poor and your baby, too. But, don’t expect any support from government you loser. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps because you’re a real pain in our right-wing butts. But, vote for us! Because we’re the REAL patriots. We’re the REAL Americans. And, you’re nothing but a disgrace to this “exceptional” country.

Tony

August 7th, 2012
2:42 pm

Please keep in mind that our politicians want to adopt the Louisiana policies for our state. In addition to this kind of illegal behavior, the state would be paying private schools through vouchers that would be teaching religion, creationism, and other philosophies. There would be no accountability for these schools, either. Remember, we vote on this on Nov. 6.

bootney farnsworth

August 7th, 2012
2:44 pm

@ blind

my parents taught me not to have sex until marriage. they stressed it constantly, and made sure I knew the consequences.

didn’t stop me. not at all. I’m not proud of in now, but my virginity didn’t make it out of the 10th grade.

you really need to get a clue to how things work in the real world. deny it all you want, it changes nothing

Bernie

August 7th, 2012
2:55 pm

This Requirement should send another message to the WOMEN of America.

Your VAGINA is not yours alone!

The Republicans are so concerned with your Vagina to the point, pretty soon, if they suspect you or your daughters are Pregnant. The Both of you will be subject to a Probe at any time.

Never thought in my lifetime, I would ever witness The American Woman become a SECOND CLASS CITIZEN!

when are you guys going to WAKE UP?

Brandy

August 7th, 2012
3:13 pm

And yet some people claim that instances like this, on top of the hundreds of other examples of discrimination or wrong action by charters, should be left out of mature, honest debate–simply because they did not occur within the borders of Georgia…

I’m all for school choice if the rules are being followed by everyone, equally, and wrongdoers are held accountable. However, I worry greatly that the current movement is really about creating special schools for X group that either implicitly or explicitly exclude others. To me, the most glaring legal issue in regards to this charter school is the bit of the school’s policy that states that the school can make the student go to a doctor of the school’s choosing!

fulldawg

August 7th, 2012
3:27 pm

Another plot by the extreme right-wing! Horrors (but no surprise)

Students Last

August 7th, 2012
3:36 pm

This story has a satirical antidote. Got Wood? If You’re a Male Student In LA, You Better Hope Not @ http://goo.gl/P4UHV