By Tara Culp-Ressler
One Louisiana school is dealing with the state’s high rates of teen pregnancy by taking an “out of sight, out of mind” approach. No pregnant students are welcome at Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana — a policy that the institution enforces by requiring students who are “suspected” of being pregnant to submit to a mandatory pregnancy test.
If students are pregnant, they are no longer allowed to attend classes on the school’s campus and will be forced to either switch to another school or begin a home school program. If a student refuses to take the test, she is “treated as a pregnant student” and also kicked out of Delhi Charter School, according to the student handbook:
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…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.
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.