In a move that reinforces the stigma that pregnant teenagers should be ashamed of themselves, a school in Louisiana is forcing anyone who they think might be pregnant to take a pregnancy test. And it’s not a sex education thing, either–they’ll not only force a student to take a pregnancy test, but they’ll also expel her if it’s positive. If you refuse to take a pregnancy test, you’ll get kicked out for that, too.
What’s worse is that the school in question, Delhi Charter School, in Delhi, Louisiana, is a publicly funded school. That means your parents’ tax dollars (or yours, if you work!) are paying to support discrimination against pregnant teenagers, or even just any girl who stands up for the right to not be forced into a pregnancy test in order to save her chance at an education.
Take a gander at the actual inane policy from the student handbook:
“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 suspected student to a physician of its choice. If the test indicates that 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 . . . 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.
Thankfully, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is all over this and ready to defend not only pregnant teenagers at the school, but also every girl’s right to refuse to take a pregnancy test. “The pregnancy policy violates the rights of every girl at Delhi Charter School,” the ACLU wrote furiously. “Every girl is at risk of being subject to intrusive medical testing, and possibly forced out of school, for reasons that have nothing to do with her education.” Can we get an amen?
The ACLU also points out that not only are the school’s actions and attitudes toward pregnant teenagers generally effed up, but they may also be unconstitutional–aka illegal. They noted that the pregnancy test policy “violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and the Equal Protection Clause and the Due Process Clauses of the U.S. constitution.” That basically means that the school is engaging in sex discrimination, and Title IX banned that. Further, the pregnancy test policy may also violate the 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law (so men and women are treated equally!) as well as due process and the right to procreate.
The school’s pregnancy test policy may be an effort for the school to try to discourage teen pregnancy (which is already way down), but essentially slut shaming pregnant teenagers isn’t going to solve the problem. Educating girls and guys on safe sex and birth control is statistically proven to work a lot better than promoting abstinence exclusively. And what’s more, 70 percent of pregnant teenagers and teen moms don’t finish school as it is. If Delhi Charter School had its way, that number would soar up to 100 percent, further increasing not only the education gap, but also the eventual income gap between pregnant teenagers and their peers. As if these girls didn’t have enough to deal with, right?
While we’re stoked that the ACLU is doing their darnedest to take care of the pregnancy test policy, can we please talk about how sexist and effed up this is? First of all, pregnant teenagers don’t result from a bored girl with a turkey baster. It takes two. Why are pregnant teenagers–women and girls–being persecuted, but the presumed fathers of their unborn babies are free to study unscathed? In addition, what if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest? Isn’t the act punishment enough? When they came up with this pregnancy test policy, these school administrators showed that they are at best extremely ignorant and short sighted, if not outright sadistic.
And let’s be real: Even–perhaps especially–if you’re not pregnant, how humiliating would it be to be forced to take a pregnancy test just because you’re a little bloated from lunch? All of this is absolutely ludicrous.
We’re glad there’s an uproar here, because there needs to be one. Slut shaming and expelling pregnant teenagers for “failing” a pregnancy test won’t make teen pregnancy go away. Education, information, and a stop to discrimination and rampant sexism within policies and politics, however, may well do the trick.
Do you think the pregnancy test policy is a good one? Do you think the pregnancy test policy discriminates against pregnant teenagers? Do you think being forced to take a pregnancy test isn’t a big deal? Do you think pregnant teenagers influence their peers? Do you think the pregnancy test policy will deter teen pregnancy? Tell us in the comments!