The administration Delhi Charter School of Delhi, Louisiana, ought to be red-faced right now. Why’s that? Well, in 2006 the administration instituted a new policy: No pregnant students allowed in the classroom. The school reserved the (illegal) right to even force pregnancy tests on students. However, when the good ol’ ACLU stepped up on the case, the Delhi Charter School claimed ignorance on the unconstitutionality of banning pregnant women from their halls and reversed their policy. Even without the government stepping in, the administration of the Delhi Charter School is guilty of body-shaming and slut-shaming their student body for ever instituting this policy, and certainly earned the honor of this week’s Douchebag Decree.
Treating pregnant students like this (or discriminating against them in any fashion) is plain illegal. The ACLU points out that the Delhi Charter School was in clear violation of the Title IX Section of the Education Amendments of 1972, that explicitly disallows the exclusion of pregnant (or recently pregnant, or falsely pregnant) students from any school or extracurricular activity. The Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution state that no one shall be discriminated against because they are suspected or are pregnant, and that even if they are pregnant, they shall choose to do what they will with that pregnancy. Like, maybe, stay in taxpayer-funded school.
Pregnant students already have it hard enough being in school: Our culture drills into the heads of American teens all over the idea pregnancy as OMG worst thing ever. Instead of treating pregnant teens with respect, public health campaigns shame pregnancy by labeling it “dirty” and “disturbing.” The teen pregnancy narrative covered in public health ads ends at pregnancy—don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant, and die. So, imagine dealing with the weight of shame that our society places on your shoulders, just for being pregnant. And then imagine getting kicked out of school for it.
Louisiana’s abstinence-only education isn’t mandatory—is that what you’d call a silver lining?
The actions of the Delhi Charter School didn’t just disproportionately affect people on one side of the gender spectrum; the policy speaks to a macro-level denial of essential services for a town with a majority of people of color. The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health points out that Latina women have both a higher chance of being pregnant in their teen years and have less access to adequate healthcare. Our healthcare system and socioeconomic climate play a role in higher infant mortality rates for Latina mothers; kicking pregnant women of color out of school—as the Delhi Charter School has attempted to do since 2006—would only further remove them from information about proper reproductive healthcare.
Even though the policy was reversed this afternoon, it’s still absurd that the Delhi administration either didn’t know or didn’t care about the constitutionality of their actions. Louisiana Department of Education spokesman Barry Landry claimed ignorance on laws protecting pregnant women in the classroom, and nobody has offered an apology for the six (!) years it was in place. We can all sleep a little better at night with the ACLU on the watch, but before bedtime, check out some positive news on teen pregnancy here.