Delhi Charter School, in Louisiana, has a Student Pregnancy Policy that allows staff to force female students who are suspected of being pregnant to take a pregnancy test. If students are pregnant or refuse to take the test, they are kicked out and must undergo home schooling if they want to continue their education at the school.
Apparently, Delhi Charter School doesn’t believe that female students have a right to education free from discrimination, unlike the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance (Woodhull) as mentioned in my previous post, “Sex Education is a Human Right.” Moreover, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published an article admonishing Delhi’s policy for its blatant violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the policy completely disregards Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972, which prohibits sex discrimination in federal funded education programs and activities. Title IX explicitly mandates that schools cannot exclude any student from an education program or activity “on the basis of such a student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom.” Coupled with this offense is the policy’s violation of the Constitution’s due process right to procreate and equal protection by treating female students differently from male students.
Yet, approximately 70% of teenage girls who give birth drop out of school because illegal discrimination and the fact many schools fail to help pregnant and parenting teens stay in school: some schools even exclude or punish them. How could this be?
Well, let’s take a look at the educational system. As Woodhull’s State of Sexual Freedom 2011 report documents, the United States has high sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates and the highest teen pregnancy rate among industrialized nations. Woodhull highlights two important reasons for this: other developed countries have easier access to contraception and health care services, and there is more comprehensive sexuality education. So without access to both basic health care services, including contraception, and comprehensive sex education (in the U.S., more than half the states still don’t require sex education), it’s no wonder why almost 750,000 females between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant each year. Not only does this lack of sexual health education affect students, but also school administrators and staff. Without proper training and education, administrators and teachers are ill equipped to adequately deal with the needs of pregnant and parenting students’ situations.
Hence, we need to education both students and school administrations about the procedures that are required by law to support pregnant and parenting teens that already face social stigma. Most importantly, as Woodhull posits over and over again, we need to educate teens about their basic human rights of sexual freedom and sexual health information. When students are knowledgeable about their sexual rights, whether pregnant, parenting, or not, they are better equipped to stand up for themselves, their education, and against the illegal, discriminatory practices and barriers within the education system.
If you want to find out more about the Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance and their views on sexual health education and other key issues of sexual freedom, such as sex work and reproductive justice, you can visit their website. Also, you can attend Woodhull’s Sexual Freedom Summit (September 21-23), where Alison Gardner and Dan Massey, VenusPlusX’s founders who work closely throughout the year with Woodhull as members of its Advisory Council, will presenting their workshop session, “Sacred Sexuality and Erotic Communion, the Human Experience.”