A public charter school in Louisiana is getting national attention after the American Civil Liberties Union threatened legal action Monday over a policy that calls for forcing pregnancy tests on students suspected of being pregnant, and if they are, forcing them to leave school.
Female students who do not submit to pregnancy tests at Louisiana's Delhi Charter School could potentially be kicked out of school.
The ACLU on Monday sent a letter to Delhi Charter School, located in the town of Delhi, arguing that the school policy is unconstitutional and in "clear violation of federal law." Since at least 2006, the school's student pregnancy policy has allowed administrators to force any "suspected student" to take pregnancy tests as a means of ensuring that students "exhibit acceptable character traits."
Here's the policy:
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 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 provided by the school.
The document goes on to say that suspected students who refuse to submit to a pregnancy test will be treated as a pregnant student and be booted from the Delhi school campus.
In its letter to the school, the ACLU of Louisiana alleges that the policy violates Title IX federal protections against educational discrimination on the basis of sex, in addition to the Equal Protection and Due Process clauses of the U.S. Constitution.
Under those Title IX protections, all public schools -- including charter schools -- that accept federal funds are prohibited from discriminating against students based on "actual or potential parental, family or marital status" or on a student's "pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom."
The policy is a concrete example of gender discrimination, according to the ACLU, because it only punishes female students -- male students who may have engaged in sexual activity or who may even be expecting children are not subject to similar consequences, if any at all. Moreover, it goes on to deny educational opportunities to female students who choose to carry their pregnancies to term.
"The right to attend school and to participate fully in activities cannot be denied simply because a student is, or may be, pregnant," Galen Sherwin of the ACLU's Women's Rights Project said in a statement. "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."
A request for comment from the Delhi Charter School was not immediately returned. Caroline Roemer Shirley, the executive director of the Louisiana Association of Charter Schools -- of which Delhi Charter is a member -- told Louisiana's the News Star that she agreed the student pregnancy policy could be "problematic."
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