US school under attack for forcing girls to take pregnancy tests
A school in Louisiana, USA, has been criticised for forcing girls to undergo pregnancy tests and dismissing any who refuse the test or who are found to be pregnant.
Now under legal pressure, the Delhi Charter School is said to have forced pregnant girls to leave school or study at home.
According to a controversial “Student Pregnancy Policy” in the school manual, the school reserves the right to hold a parent conference if it suspects that a student is pregnant, and requires female students to take pregnancy tests and refer those girls to a doctor of its choice.
Pregnant students are not allowed to attend classes on campus. Instead they have to study at home.
A refusal to take the test or being found to be pregnant carries the same punishment as possession of a firearm, knife or illegal drug.
Addressed to the school’s two principals Chris Broussard and Nikki Roark, as well as the board chairman Albert Christman, the organisation argues that the policy is in “clear violation of federal law and the US constitution”.
According to the ACLU, the policy had violated ‘Title IX’ of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that bans discrimination based on gender in educational programs, as well as the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.
The policy is discriminatory because it treats girls who are pregnant or suspected of being pregnant differently from all other students.
Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU, said the policy also violated part of the Education Amendments and Equal Protection Clause “because it excludes students from educational programs and activities on the basis of sex.
“What a school should do is treat pregnancy as any other medical condition and allow the student to participate fully in anything that she’s medically capable of participating in,” Esman said, noting the policy doesn’t say anything about male students who father children.
“The policy violates the substantive Due Process right to procreate and to decide whether to continue or terminate a pregnancy .. [and] by imposing an irrebuttable presumption that pregnant students are unable to continue to attend classes,” she said.
The policy is also “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 behaviour,” according to Esman’s letter.
State officials agreed that the policy violated federal law and the Louisiana State Department of Education has demanded that it be changed.
In a statement to the Daily News, Principal Chris Broussard said the school is reviewing the policy with a local law firm.
“There have never been any complaints from students or parents about the school’s policy,” he said.
“However, in light of the recent inquiry, the current policy has been forwarded to the law firm of Davenport, Files & Kelly in Monroe, La., to ensure that necessary revisions are made so that our school is in full compliance with the constitutional law”.