(DELHI, La.) — A Louisiana high school has come under attack for a policy that bans pregnant students, and those who refuse to take a pregnancy test, from its campus.
According to its student pregnancy policy, Delhi Charter School “reserves the right to require any female student to take a pregnancy test.” If the test is positive, “the student will not be permitted to attend classes on the campus of Delhi Charter School.”
“There’s so much wrong with this policy, it’s hard to know where to start,” said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana. “In a nutshell, it illegally discriminates against girls simply for being pregnant.”
Although the policy allows pregnant students to continue their education through home study courses provided by the school, Esman said it violates Title IX, which prohibits schools receiving federal funds from excluding students based on “pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.”
“They need to immediately suspend enforcement of the policy and then revamp it,” said Esman, who in an Aug. 6 letter to the school’s principal and board chairman threatened legal action. “They need to come up with a policy that’s legal.”
In response to the letter and ABC News’ requests for comment, school principal Chris Broussard said the policy would be revised to comply with the law. “There have never been any complaints from students or parents about the school’s policy.”
Broussard declined to comment on the origins of the policy, having joined the Delhi Charter School staff just one month ago.
Louisiana has one of the highest teen birth rates in the country, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The rate, 54.1 births per 1,000 teens, was 12.6 points higher than the national average in 2008, the latest year for which data are available.
But Esman said policies that discourage pregnant students from attending school are both illegal and misguided.
“For someone who’s going to be a young parent, getting an education is the best thing she can do,” she said. “The best thing a school can do to prevent teen pregnancy is have a really comprehensive sex education program. If that’s the school’s goal, that’s the way to do it.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Michael H. O’Donnell, Idaho State Journal
Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com
Ben Tinker, CNN