ACLU targets anti-pregnancy rule at La. school

August 8, 2012

By Janet Mcconnaughey, Associated Press

The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana threatened Tuesday to sue a northeastern Louisiana charter school if it doesn’t change rules that keep pregnant students out of the classroom and require girls under suspicion of being pregnant to be tested.

The four-paragraph “Student Pregnancy Policy” in Delhi Charter School’s policy manual says that if a suspected girl refuses to take a pregnancy test, she can be removed from class or the school.

That violates the U.S. Constitution and federal laws against sexual discrimination, state ACLU executive director Marjorie R. Esman said.

“I haven’t heard of this anywhere else,” Esman said Tuesday. “And I hope there isn’t another school anywhere on the planet that has a policy like this.”

The school’s two principals and an attorney representing the school did not immediately respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

Esman emailed the schools’ two principals and a board member about the policy on Monday. She said attorney W. David Hammett told her Tuesday that they were reviewing the issue and would get back.

“I take that as a good sign — that they’re taking this seriously,” she said. “And I assume their lawyers will agree with us and see the need to suspend enforcement and change their policy.”

Delhi Charter had 609 students last year in kindergarten through 12th grade, and, with 67 percent of its students at or above grade level, got a B-minus in its state evaluation. Only one of the 11 schools run by the Richland Parish School Board got a grade that high; the others were two C’s, a C-minus, a D and six D-minuses. The three public schools in Delhi all got D or D-minus.

While Louisiana has recently gained attention for a new law allowing state-funded vouchers for students to attend private and religious schools that charge tuition, the Delhi school was created under a previous law. As a charter school, it cannot charge tuition or be supported by or affiliated with any religion.

About 23 percent of Delhi Charter’s students are minority, nearly 5 percent disabled and 53 percent eligible for free or reduced-price meals.

The pregnancy policy says pregnant students who want to stay in the school must study at home.

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