As a former teen mom, I know how hard it is to stay in school and graduate on time when you're pregnant or taking care of a new baby. So I was shocked to learn that the Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana is shaming and suspending pregnant students -- and imposing mandatory pregnancy tests on students who "might" be pregnant.
Students at Delhi Charter School -- which is publicly funded -- who are suspected of being pregnant are forced to take mandatory pregnancy tests. If they refuse, they're told to stay home or transfer. And if they test positive, they're told to stay home or transfer.
This discrimination is illegal. But the administration at Delhi Charter School seems to be more interested in making sure pregnant girls can't get an education than in obeying federal law.
That's why I started this petition to tell the Delhi Charter School administration to stop forcing girls to take pregnancy tests, and to stop shaming and suspending pregnant students and students who refuse to take the tests.
Does this kind of shaming stop teen pregnancies and build stronger, better educated communities? No. I know because I was a teen mom at 17, and now I work with teen moms every day in Boston.
7 years ago, I told teachers and administrators at my high school I was pregnant, thinking they'd want to help me graduate and build a future for myself and my child. Instead, they made me feel ashamed and unwelcome, and made it almost impossible for me to attend classes, jeopardizing my education and my future.
I was lucky enough to be able to transfer and, today, I work with other teen moms to support them in graduating on time and growing into successful adults. But the wonderful young women I work with have to overcome huge obstacles -- 30% of all teen girls who drop out of high school leave because of pregnancy, and 70% of teen girls who give birth end up leaving school.
Advocacy groups and legal experts have already told Delhi Charter School their policy of mandatory pregnancy tests and suspending pregnant students breaks several federal laws because it discriminates against female students -- it also violates the Constitution.
The Delhi Charter School says it "may rethink" the policy, but in the meantime, they can still shame pregnant students. Tell the school to immediately eliminate mandatory pregnancy tests and commit to giving pregnant students the same the same education, in the same place and at the same time, as all other students.
This discrimination is illegal. It is also shocking behavior coming from individuals and an institution that are supposed to be committed to educating youth and improving communities.
That's why I am signing this petition, started by Natasha Vianna -- who was also a teen mom -- calling on you to end your discriminatory policies of mandatory pregnancy tests, and suspending dissenting and pregnant students immediately.
Teen parents have a hard enough time already -- and as many as 70% of teen moms leave high school because of stigma and hardship, leaving them without the educations they need to grow into successful adults and parents.
Delhi Charter School needs to end this policy of discrimination against teen moms and female students immediately, and recommit itself to educating all the students who walk through its doors.