A Louisiana charter K-12 school has a policy that is riling the ACLU. If you’re pregnant or suspected of being pregnant — and refuse to take a pregnancy test — you’re automatically kicked out of school and forced into home study. The Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana, has a policy that’s clearly unconstitutional, and is garnering fast and furious attention across the country.
Of course, being pregnant is not illegal, and one certainly can assume this policy will lead to more abortions, but in the “abstinence-only” mindset of conservatives, that doesn’t enter into the equation.
The Delhi Charter School policy states:
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.
There does not seem to be a comparable policy for the male students who may have been part of the pregnancy equation.
Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones writes:
Any student who is pregnant will be forced to go on home study. The policy goes on to state that any student who refuses to take a pregnancy test “shall be treated as a pregnant student” and also put on mandatory home study.
“I am not aware of anything else like this,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana. “This so blatantly illegal and discriminatory. This is about as draconian as anything I have ever seen.” Esman said the policy is not new, but had been brought to the ACLU’s attention this summer.
In the letter to the school, the ACLU argues that the policy violates the Title IX federal protections against educational discrimination on the basis of sex as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Daily News adds:
The policy is also “based on the archaic and pernicious stereotype that a girl’s pregnant sets a ‘bad example’ for her peers — i.e. that in having engaged in sexual activity, she has transgressed acceptable norms of feminine behavior,” according to Esman’s letter.
The American Civil Liberties Union points out that Dehli Charter School’s discriminatory policy for pregnant students is “in blatant violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.” On Monday, the ACLU of Louisiana and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project sent a letter to the school asking it to suspend its policy, on the grounds that New Delhi Charter School’s unfair treatment of its pregnant students violates the following laws:
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, for excluding students from educational programs based on sex.
- The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, for treating female students differently than their male peers, as well as stereotyping “suspected” pregnant studies on the basis of their gender.
- The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment that recognizes the right to procreate as well as the right to decide whether to terminate a pregnancy, for targeting students in a way that appears to stigmatize pregnancy.
Aside from its unconstitutional premise, the charter school’s policy toward pregnant students is also furthering a serious education gap between teen mothers and the young women who do not have unplanned pregnancies. Thirty percent of all teen girls who drop out of high school cite pregnancy as the main reason. And a full 70 percent of teenage girls who give birth end up leaving school — although if New Delhi Charter School had its way, that statistic might be closer to 100 percent.
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