Pregnant and parenting teens face enormous challenges in accomplishing their educational goals. Approximately 70 percent of teenage girls who give birth leave school, and, evidence suggests that illegal discrimination is a major contributing factor to this high dropout rate.
Since 1972, when Title IX was enacted, it has been illegal for schools to exclude pregnant and parenting students from school. Despite this fact, many schools fail to help pregnant and parenting teens stay in school, and some actually exclude or punish them.
Girls from around the country tell the same stories: When they got pregnant or had a child, a principal, counselor, or teacher told them they’d have to leave school. In many cases, pregnant and parenting students are told outright that they can’t stay in school or must go to an alternative school, which all too often offer substandard educations. Sometimes the discrimination is more subtle. Schools refuse to give excused absences for doctor’s appointments, teachers refuse to allow make-up work, or staff members exclude them from school activities based on “morality” codes or make disparaging, discouraging and disapproving comments.
Young people have a right to complete their education regardless of their sex or whether they become pregnant. Teens should not have to choose between completing their education and taking care of themselves and their children.
The ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project works to ensure the rights of pregnant and parenting teens through advocacy, education, and litigation to investigate and end the push-out of pregnant and parenting teens from school.
Know Your Rights Materials:
While the following materials were made by some of our affiliates for state-specific outreach purposes, teens in other states can use these to get a general idea of what their rights are, and can reach out to us for assistance if they need to know more specifically what their rights are in their state.
Palm Card: Your Rights as a Pregnant or Parenting Teen (New York Civil Liberties Union)
Palm Card: The Rights of Pregnant and Parenting Teens in School (ACLU of Minnesota)
Booklet: The Rights of Pregnant & Parenting Teens
100-page guide to New York State law on the rights of pregnant and parenting teens, produced by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
Cases and Settlements
Delhi Charter School
Delhi Charter School, a public charter school in Delhi, Louisiana, eliminated a policy that required female students even suspected of being pregnant to submit to a pregnancy exam and forced them out of school if they refused or tested positive. The policy change was in response to a letter issued by the American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Louisiana.
Hicks v. Edsitty-Beach
American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of New Mexico lawsuit on behalf of Shantelle Hicks, 15, who was initially kicked out of middle school and then publicly humiliated at an assembly by the school director and another staff member because she was pregnant.
The ACLU of Southern California filed and settled a lawsuit on behalf of pregnant and parenting teenagers who were funneled into sub-standard education programs rather than given the opportunity to continue their education at their local high schools.
Doe and Roe v. Reid
The New York Civil Liberties Union filed and settled a lawsuit against New York City school officials and the NYC Department of Education on behalf of a group of minors who, after skipping school, were not allowed to return until they underwent highly intrusive medical examinations (including pregnancy, STD, and HIV tests) and presented the test results to the school.
Every month, you'll receive regular roundups of the most important civil rights and civil liberties developments. Remember: a well-informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.