It has been discovered that a public school in Louisiana has an official policy to force all female students who are suspected of being pregnant to submit to a pregnancy test. The news of this has brought forward emotions of every variety and all political, religious, and philosophical ideologies. The question is, is this policy legal? Does it violate a student's constitutional rights to privacy?
The ACLU, who originally broke this story, says unequivocally that this policy is constitutionally illegal. Delhi Charter School is the education bastion in question. The school is located in Delhi, Louisiana.
The school, which is a "school of choice", that is funded by public dollars and vouchers claims to have the right to force female students to take pregnancy tests based on their official code of conduct. In total the entire policy manual is a monotonous 216 pages long. The policy in question can be found on page 130, section C-15 under "STUDENT PREGNANCY POLICY." Here is that policy in its entirety:
As a school of choice, parents, administrators, and the Board of Directors place high expectations on the students and will require that all students adhere to the school's high standards. Delhi Charter school has established an environment whereby the conduct of its students must be in keeping with the school's goals and objectives relative to character development. The Delhi Charter School curriculum will maintain an environment in which all students will learn and exhibit acceptable character traits that govern languages, gestures, physical actions, and written words.
If an administrator or teacher suspects a student is pregnant, a parent conference will be held. 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 suspect student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates the student is pregnant, the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.
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 be provided by the school. Students engaged in home study will be required to meet all of the school's ordinary, high academic standards in order to be promoted.
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 first paragraph claims the school seeks to further "character development." Does this development entail forcing students to submit to a sexually invasive policy? When did learning about mathematics and social studies include being forced to reveal sexual histories?
Even further in the second paragraph the school white-washes their policy by claiming they "reserve the right" to force a student to take a pregnancy test. Simply saying one reserves a right does not grant that person permission to said right. I, a lowly journalist, for example, do not automatically gain the right to raid my neighbor's groceries simply because I wrote down that I reserve the right to do so. I could have used much more graphic examples, but I trust in the intuition of the reader to use their imagination.
The school's broad policy does not state in specific terms what constitutes "suspicion." There is also no mechanism for an appeal to this suspicion. For a 216 page document, it is curious that such a policy would be so broad.
There are even more questions, such as the consequences for male students. Why are females singled out in this regard? It takes two people to become pregnant, so why are males not forced to submit to a DNA test if they are "suspected" of impregnating a female student? This is not even mentioned in the policy, meaning that teen girls are persecuted for having sex, but male students are given a pass and asked to do nothing.
This policy has been in place since July 17, 2006. It is therefore reasonable to assume that young women have been forced to adhere to this policy and may not even know that their constitutional rights to privacy have been violated and that they may be eligible for compensatory damages.
The ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project is pursuing all legal means to end this discriminatory policy and has called for the Delhi Charter School to suspend this policy at once. The ACLU also claims that "the policy’s complete disregard for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and activities, is astonishing. Title IX and its regulations explicitly mandate that schools cannot exclude any student from an 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.”
Nationwide, approximately 70 percent of teen girls who give birth leave school.