It’s become abundantly clear that legislators spanning the school system to the federal government will stop at nothing to curb teen pregnancy. Unfortunately in that quest, the same way that women bear the brunt of the burden of childbirth, they are also disproportionately made to suffer the consequences of pre-marital sex, particularly at Delhi Charter School in Delhi, Louisiana. There, the administration has implemented a highly controversial policy that can best be summarized as “have sex, just don’t get pregnant.” Outlined in the school handbook, the policy reads:
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.
The purpose of the policy, aimed at the school’s 600 students in grades K-12, is to maintain its high standard for student character. Don’t bother re-reading the policy to figure out how the character of the male student’s at Delhi is judged. You won’t find anything. The American Civil Liberties Union has already jumped on the charter school for the illegality of their discriminatory policy. I’m more concerned with the faulty thought pattern that led them to create it in the first place.
Teen pregnancy is no doubt an issue that needs to be tackled head-on, but this effort goes about it through the backdoor. I have a hard time understanding the logic in essentially aiding someone to become a dependent single mother. From my view, becoming a teen mother is self-punishment enough, in the sense that it’s hardly an ideal situation and one that is wrought with challenges. What is gained by also limiting a woman’s education to further prevent her from becoming self-sufficient and an adequate parent? It may not be the best use of resources to pour even more effort into making sure these girl’s graduate, but if anything that would be the route to go. Besides, I’m not convinced that the state of being pregnant requires any more effort on the mother or the school’s part to ensure a pregnant student earns a diploma. With the exception of sick days and perhaps having trouble fitting into a desk, the “distraction” argument used to justify the teen mom-shaming that goes on at many schools around this country is weak at best. ThinkProgress.org points out that “thirty percent of all teen girls who drop out of high school cite pregnancy as the main reason, and a full 70 percent of teenage girls who give birth end up leaving school.” That’s the real distraction to society, the work force, child-rearing, and the social security crisis, not a 16-year-old waddling down the hall with a round belly.
Analyzing this policy, it’s no longer surprising to me that many men don’t instantly feel compelled to be present in the lives of children they father with women with whom they don’t have binding relationships. No one forces them to. This policy implements crippling consequences for teen mothers while not even bothering to require that men own up to fathering any children, be shamed for their “character faults,” or have any aspect of their lives interrupted by their choice to have unprotected sex that leads to conception. The double standard is as apparent as the lights flashing in Times Square and justifies an entire attitude of irresponsibility that comes to characterize a large proportion of the male sex. So often we think men just don’t care, but the thing is no one makes them, or even demonstrates any reasons that they should.
Across the genders, policies like this also seek to instill negative connotations around sex as though it is a morally deplorable act of bad character when that’s not the message teens need. Sex is fine, good, great, beautiful, normal, exciting, acceptable, and all of those things when done within the proper parameters and an adequate understanding of the positive and negative emotional, physical, and fiscal consequences. It baffles me that in a day and age where we can talk to a fictitious robot in our phone named Siri to handle our daily needs, we still haven’t figured out how to properly educate teenagers about sex—or leave the job up to the best people for the job most times, their parents.
I’ve yet to hear of a high school girl becoming pregnant via artificial insemination—or Immaculate Conception since Jesus’ mother Mary—so if you’re going to condemn one, you need to condemn all involved in the act of teen pregnancy. Better yet, why condemn them educationally at all?
What do you think about Delhi’s pregnancy policy?
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