Lousiana Charter School's Mandatory Pregnancy Tests Create ACLU Backlash
Seventy percent of teen moms become dropouts, and one Louisiana charter school is happy to help boost those numbers. The Delhi Charter School, in Delhi, Louisiana caught the fire of the ACLU, and the press writ-large, this week for it’s discriminatory “pregnancy policy.” In short, the policy forces any female student who is “suspected” of being pregnant to undergo a […]
Seventy percent of teen moms become dropouts, and one Louisiana charter school is happy to help boost those numbers. The Delhi Charter School, in Delhi, Louisiana caught the fire of the ACLU, and the press writ-large, this week for it’s discriminatory “pregnancy policy.” In short, the policy forces any female student who is “suspected” of being pregnant to undergo a mandatory pregnancy test. If the test comes back positive, the student is expelled. If she refuses to take the test, she’s still expelled. It’s a bit like a modern-day witch hunt, where being suspected seems to be the crime itself. Instead of putting words into administrators’ mouths, here’s the school’s Student Pregnancy Policy in full, as outlined in the school’s policy manual.
Student Pregnancy Policy
As a school of choice, parents, administrators, and the Board of Directors place high expectations on the students and will require that all students adhere to the school’s high standards. Delhi Charter School has established an environment whereby the conduct of its students must be in keeping with the school’s goals and objectives relative to character development. The Delhi Charter School curriculum will maintain an environment in which all students will learn and exhibit acceptable character traits that govern language, gestures, physical actions, and written words.
If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. 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 suspected 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 Delhi Charter School.
If a student is determined to be pregnant and wishes to continue to attend Delhi Charter School, the student will be required to pursue a course of home study that will be provided by the school. Students engaged in home studey will be required to meet all of the school’s ordinary, high academic standards in order to be promoted.
Any student who is suspected of being pregnant and who refuses to submit to a pregnancy test shall be treated as a pregnant student and will be offered home study opportunities. If home study opportunities are not acceptable, the student will be counseled to seek other educational opportunities.
In their letter to school officials, the ACLU states, “The Policy is in clear violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and its implementing regulations, as well as the Equal Protection Clause and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and also raises serious concerns of vagueness in violation of the First Amendment.”
More specifically, the pregnancy policy violates the terms of Title IX which state that schools that receive federal funding “shall not discriminate against any student, or exclude any student from its 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.”
More than discriminating against pregnant students, the school discriminates against all of its female students. All female Dehli students are subjected to the possibility of forced pregnancy tests based solely on the suspicion of pregnancy. Should they be found pregnant or should they refuse to undergo testing, these students are forced off school grounds and into “home-study” programs or other schools. And what of the male students who may have gotten these girls pregnant? The policy doesn’t even mention them.
In the ACLU’s words, the policy is “based on the archaic and pernicious stereotype that a girl’s pregnancy sets a “bad example” for her peers – i.e. that in having engaged in sexual activity, she has transgressed acceptable norms of feminine behavior.” But what example is set for students when adults toss these girls aside, ostracizing them and labeling them as unworthy of walking the school’s halls? What message is sent to male students, who will never bear the same physical markers of sexual activity? What message is sent to female students about their rights to govern both their bodies and minds?
Amid all of these questions, there’s one that’s even more disturbing – why are we only hearing about this now? The school’s policy manual was published in 2006. That means the Dehli Charter School has been illegally violating the constitutional rights of its students for six years. Why, in that time, did no adults come forward to challenge the policy? Could the problem be due, in part, to the school’s charter status? Do parents, teachers and administrators view all charter schools as private institutions without realizing that they receive federal funding and are therefore held to the same constitutional standards as public schools? And if it took six years for the ACLU to learn of Dehli’s pregnancy policy, how many other charter school manuals are littered with unconstitutional and discriminatory policies?
One thing’s for sure — if you’re a parent with a child attending a charter school, now would be a good time to request a copy of the school policy manual.
Published August 09, 2012