NEW ORLEANS – The ACLU issued a letter today to the administration at Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana in response to its Student Pregnancy Policy. The policy requires female students even suspected of being pregnant to submit to a pregnancy exam – and if they are pregnant or refuse to take the test, it forces them out of school.

The pregnancy policy it states that if a teacher or administrator suspects a female student of being pregnant (whether she is pregnant or not) the school can require her to have a pregnancy test and even select the physician. If the student is pregnant, according to the plan, “the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School…and will be required to pursue a course of home study.” It goes on to state further, “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 pregnancy policy   violates the rights of every girl at Delhi Charter School, ” said Marjorie R. Esman, Executive Director of the ACLU.  “Every girl is at risk of being subject to intrusive medical testing, and possibly forced out of school, for reasons that have nothing to do with her education.”

Delhi’s policy stands in violation of, among other things:

  • Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and its implementing regulations because it excludes students from educational programs and activities on the basis of sex.
  • The Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, because it treats female students differently than male students and because it relies on impermissible sex stereotypes
  • The right to procreate, and to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy
  • The Due Process Clause of the Constitution by imposing the presumption that pregnant students are unable to continue to attend classes.

Esman says the policy is just a pretext for sex discrimination. “It is based on the archaic and pernicious stereotype that a girl’s pregnancy sets a ‘bad example’ for her peers.” The law is clear that no one can be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination in education on the basis of sex,’” Esman said. She says the policy subjects all and, of course, only female students to the possibility of mandatory pregnancy testing, based on a subjective ‘suspicion’ that they might be pregnant. “Male students who might also have engaged in sexual activity or be expecting children are not subjected to similar action or risk,” says Esman.

“The right to attend school and to participate fully in activities cannot be denied a student simply because she is, or may be, pregnant,” said Galen Sherwin of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.  “Pregnancy is not a disease, and schools may not treat it that way.  To force a student to home study simply because she is pregnant is to deny her the equal right to a full education.  The administrators of Delhi Charter School should be ashamed that they seek to deprive students of the benefits of going to school every day.”

In addition to its discrimination against girls, the policy is unlawfully vague and subjective by stating that “all students will learn and exhibit acceptable character traits that govern language, gestures, physical actions, and written words.”  “This provision, which clearly trenches on protected speech and expression, fails to define ‘acceptable character traits,’ leaving students of common intelligence [to] necessarily guess at its meaning. It fails to regulate First Amendment freedoms ‘with narrow specificity,’ rendering it impermissibly vague and in violation of the First Amendment.”

The ACLU of Louisiana issued the letter to the Delhi Charter School in hopes they revise the policy so that it complies with the U.S. Constitution and Federal law.  The letter asks the school to suspend the policy until it is revised and to notify parents and students of the policy change. Esman says if Delhi refuses to incorporate the changes the ACLU of Louisiana will consider taking further legal action, including filing a lawsuit or a complaint with the appropriate state or federal enforcement agencies.