Can a pregnant teen be expelled from a charter school?
November 27, 2007 6:34 PM   Subscribe

Can an 13 year old be expelled from a charter school in Chicago because she is pregnant?

I am asking for a friend, and I have very little detail. If the question isn't answerable on this meager basis, and resources about the laws and regulation governing Chicago charter schools would be appreciated. As far as I know, the pregnancy is the only reason for the expulsion (no other behavioral or academic issues in play) I've found some documentation that states that charter schools can make their own "codes of conduct", but is expulsion on this basis legal, given that charter schools are publicly funded?
posted by kimdog to Education (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Charter schools have a lot of latitude with regards to selecting students. If a school has a written policy of "no pregnant students", then they absolutely can remove a student who gets pregnant (more specifically, a student who is pregnant... if she were to become unpregnant (which would be the safer option at 13), the story would probably be different. A Charter school does not have an obligation to provide an education to any individual student -- as a rule, they can boot kids back into the compulsory system, and if they believe that a knocked-up 13 year old would disrupt their educational environment, they are justified in doing so.

In most urban areas, there are other charter schools for pregnant teens and new mothers, FWIW.

From the Chicago Public Schools Policy Manual:

Pursuant to the Charter Schools Law, Illinois School Law, 105 ILCS 5/27A, all charter schools are
exempt from local school board policies, including the Student Code of Conduct. Charter schools
are free to adopt the SCC or to establish their own discipline policies.
posted by toxic at 7:05 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Only very remotely related, but people can be thrown out of private colleges for being pregnant. Yes, that's probably no help. Just throwing it out there.
posted by Autarky at 7:16 PM on November 27, 2007

Expelling a pregnant teenage girl violates Title IX. An article from 2004 re Illoinois.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 7:19 PM on November 27, 2007 [3 favorites]

Assuming that the school receives federal funding, which nearly all public school districts do, ClaudiaCenter's right on. If it's helpful, the actual law is here, at 106.40(b):

"Pregnancy and related conditions. (1) A recipient shall not discriminate against any student, or exclude any student from its education program or activity, including any class or extracurricular activity, on the basis of such student's pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery therefrom, unless the student requests voluntarily to participate in a separate portion of the program or activity of the recipient."
posted by Siobhan at 7:29 PM on November 27, 2007

Expelling a pregnant teenage girl violates Title IX

Except when it doesn't. You can't get kicked out of a mainline public school for a pregnancy, but you can be removed from a Charter school for almost any reason -- you have a right to an education, you do not have a right to your seat in a Charter school (that's part of what makes them different, they can cherry-pick students). The 2004 case linked above involved a policy that required pregnant students to leave the mainline schools and go to special Mom's schools. That's different.

Charter schools in Chicago (and elsewhere) are allowed to discriminate in a number of ways that a normal public school wouldn't dream of: One Two Three. They are inherently different, and much of what you believe a public school "must" do or accommodate just doesn't apply.
posted by toxic at 9:16 PM on November 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Actually, the single-sex charter schools have been sued under Title IX. These schools have been defended based on the concept that "educational research suggests that single-sex education may provide benefits to some students under certain circumstances," see see OCR final regs. Generally, the districts that include single-sex charter schools include parallel schools (one for girls, one for boys) to meet the overall nondiscrimination standard.

The single-sex issue has become a sort of (controversial, regulated) exception to the general rule, and should not be viewed as a sign that charter schools are not subject to federal civil rights statutes. Someone could make the argument that non-pregnancy should be yet another exception, but that would be a stretch (and I would cheerfully bring the lawsuit against that argument).

Here's a piece from the Department of Education -- excerpt:

Of course, charter schools, like all public schools and other recipients of federal financial assistance, must operate consistent with civil rights laws.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces a number of civil rights laws that apply to public schools, including charter schools. These laws include: Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability; and the Age Discrimination Act of 1975, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of age. These laws apply to programs and activities that receive federal financial assistance.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:15 PM on November 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

Mod note: A few comments removed. General commentary and arguments about incest aren't really answering the question.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on November 28, 2007

I'm fairly certain ClaudiaCenter is right; even publicly funded venues that have wide latitude to otherwise cherry-pick who they serve cannot generally discriminate on certain protected classes. So they might be able to kick out everyone who wouldn't wear blue pants or learn Latin, but they can't kick out someone for being black, or being Catholic, or being pregnant (race, religion, and gender being protected classes).

I'm not a lawyer, but I had a friend working at a charter/magnet school in DC that considered kicking out a pregnant student before being told by counsel in no uncertain terms that it would be illegal to do so. As I understand it, that student was protected by Title IX, so it shouldn't be any different in Chicago.

It looks like Chicago Public Schools has an Office of Information, Outreach and Ombudsman Services that can be reached at (773) 553-1000. This type of question is exactly what ombudsmen exist for, so you might want to start with a call there to determine whether the school is acting improperly. (I know charter schools aren't generally under the authority of the school board, but they might be able to point you to the right resources if they can't help you themselves.)
posted by iminurmefi at 8:14 AM on November 28, 2007

If the father is not kicked out of school for becoming a parent, there may be a case for gender discrimination.
posted by theora55 at 2:00 PM on November 28, 2007

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