School Choice & Charters

ACLU Criticizes La. School Pregnancy Policy

By Sean Cavanagh — August 08, 2012 2 min read
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A Louisiana charter school’s policy that bars pregnant students from taking classes on campus has come under fire from the American Civil Liberties Union, which says the mandate violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.

The policy at Delhi Charter School says that if a student is suspected of being pregnant, the school “reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test,” and even has a say as to which physician performs that test.

Students who are determined to be pregnant and want to continue taking classes are required to take a course of study at home provided by the school, according to the school’s guideline. Additionally, any student who refuses to take a pregnancy test “shall be treated as a pregnant student and offered home study opportunities,” the school policy states. “If home study opportunities are not acceptable, the student will be counseled to seek other educational opportunities.” (See Section C-15 of the school policy.)

The document drew the objections of the ACLU of Louisiana, which sent a letter to school officials asking that they suspend the policy and notify parents of the change. If Delhi Charter refuses to change the policy, the ACLU said it will consider suing to block it or filing a complain with “the appropriate state or federal enforcement agencies.”

The ACLU takes issue with the school policy on several specific fronts. It argues that it violates federal Title IX policy by barring student participation in education activities on the basis of gender; runs afoul of the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution; and violates the “substantive due process right to procreate,” as protected by legal precedent.

“Delhi Charter School’s deprivation of students’ rights to attend a school solely because of actual or suspected pregnancy is a pretext for sex discrimination, because it 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,” said Marjorie R. Esman, the executive director of the ACLU Louisiana, in a letter to school officials.

“Furthermore, mandating home study for pregnant and suspected pregnant girls may also reflect the stereotypes that girls who become pregnant will be unable or unwilling to continue attending classes on the same terms as other students.”

In response to the complaint, school officials appear to be considering making changes to the policy. Delhi Charter School Principal Chris Broussard said the school has asked a Louisiana law firm to ensure that the guideline complies with the law, and alter it, if taking that step is justified.

“There have never been any complaints from students or parents about the school’s policy,” Broussard said in the statement, according to CNN. Lawyers will help the school make “necessary revisions” so that the school “is in full compliance with the constitutional law.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.