Forced Pregnancy Tests at La. Charter School Challenged by ACLU

The Louisiana Education Department and the American Civil Liberties Union are pressuring Delhi Charter School to change its policies banning pregnant students from attending class and demanding that female students suspected of being pregnant be tested by preselected doctors.

"We are requiring an immediate change to the policy," the Louisiana State Department of Education stated in a letter Tuesday.

The Student's Pregnancy Policy at Delhi Charter School allows officials to force testing on girls suspected of being pregnant, as well as send them to a physician of officials' own choosing. If the girl is then tested positive for being pregnant, or if she outright refuses to take the test, she is forced to either leave the school or pursue a course of home-study if she wants to continue her education.

"This is in blatant violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution," explained the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, saying that it is ready to take the school to court if it does not agree to discontinue its policy targeting female students.

"The policy discriminates against female students not just for being pregnant but even for the possibility that they might be pregnant, and treats them as though pregnancy was some kind of contagious disease by telling them they can't stay in school," added Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. "That is a gross violation of the law and their right to have an education."

Esman added that the policy violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which bans discrimination based on gender in educational programs, as well as the equal protection clause in the U.S. Constitution.

"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 suggested.

The Delhi Charter School, which has around 700 students from kindergarten to 12th grade, said they have never received a complaint about the policy. While not commenting on whether officials would remove the pregnancy tests, reported that the school has said their policy is under legal review "to ensure that necessary revisions are made so that our school is in full compliance with constitutional law."

"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 school explains. "The Delhi Charter School curriculum will maintain an environment in which all students will learn and exhibit acceptable character traits that govern language, gestures, physical actions, and written words."