A Louisiana charter school has terminated its policy of forcing students who are suspected of being pregnant to take a pregnancy test administered by a physician of the school’s choosing, and compelling students who do not agree to take a pregnancy test and those who are pregnant to be home-schooled. After the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana (ACLU-LA) threatened to take legal action on August 6, 2012, the Delhi Charter School (DCS) opted to change its discriminatory policy, which had been in place for at least seven years. On August 10, 2012, the school amended its policy manual to state that “marital, maternal, or paternal status shall not affect the rights and privileges of students at DCS to receive a public education or to take part in any extracurricular activity offered by the school.”
The ACLU-LA sent a letter to DCS detailing numerous ways in which the pregnancy policy violated federal law including that the policy discriminated on the basis of sex, in violation of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, as it affected pregnant females but offered no consequences to males who have fathered a child. It also violated the federal regulations for the implementation of Title IX, as any school receiving federal funding:
shall not discriminate against any student, or exclude any student from its education program or activity, including any class or extracurricular activity, on the basis of such student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom, unless the student requests voluntarily to participate in a separate portion of the program or activity of the recipient.
Finally, according to the ACLU-LA letter, the policy infringed the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as it treated males and females differently.
Former DCS principal Steve Gaharan told a local newspaper that he was uncomfortable with the policy, which he had to enforce approximately once each school year, as it “is quite unusual and punishing to the young lady; however the young man can strut along, continue in school and compete in or participate in all extracurricular activities …. However, the pregnant young lady is not only excluded from all of these activities, but also must be home schooled instead of having the privilege of attending school.”
DCS officials offered various reasons to explain why they had adopted the discriminatory and illegal policy. The rationale put forth in the policy was to “maintain an environment in which all students will learn and exhibit acceptable character traits.” Board president Albert Christman, however, maintained that the policy was designed to protect pregnant students from injury or ridicule, explaining that the board “thought it would be best to make sure we don't have pregnant girls that might get jostled or be criticized and subjected to verbal comments”
The revised policy of August 10, 2012 permits pregnant students to remain in class and attend any extracurricular activities, though it does absolve the school from culpability in the case of injury to the pregnant student or fetus. It also specifies that students may return to school as soon as they are able after giving birth.
Barbara Leader, “Delhi Charter to conduct review of pregnancy policy,” Monroe News Star (7 August 2012), accessed 22 August 2012, <http://www.thenewsstar.com/article/20120808/NEWS01/208080322/Delhi-Charter-conduct-review-pregnancy-policy>.
“Policy Manual,” Delhi Charter School, amended 10 August 2012, accessed 22 August 2012, <http://www.delhicharterschool.org/www/dcscharter/site/hosting/Delhi_Charter_School_Policy_Manual.html>, 130.
20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq., accessed 22 August 2012, <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCODE-2011-title20/pdf/USCODE-2011-title20-chap38-sec1681.pdf.
34 C.F.R. § 106.40(b)(1), accessed 22 August 2012, <http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/CFR-2011-title34-vol1/pdf/CFR-2011-title34-vol1-sec106-40.pdf>.
Amanda Marcotte, “Louisiana School Forcing Pregnancy Tests on Students,” Slate (7 August 2012), accessed 22 August 2012, <http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2012/08/07/delhi_charter_school_mandating_pregnancy_tests_and_banning_pregnant_students.html>
“Delhi Charter to conduct review of pregnancy policy,” ibid.
“Policy Manual,” ibid.