Charter school can find way to teach character legally
I understand what Delhi Charter School is trying to do, and maybe there’s a way for it to do it.
The school in rural Richland Parish, an above-average performer and one of the highest performers in its area despite having a disproportionate number of below-average households among its students, is a charter school, meaning it is exempt from some standards applying to traditional public schools, may impose additional ones, and is open enrollment in the parish. As one of its rules, pregnant students must study at home, and students suspected of pregnancy either must have that disconfirmed or must study at home as well. If a suspected pregnant girl rejects home study, “the student will be counseled to seek other educational opportunities.”
Its policy manual identifies why this rule: “Delhi Charter School has established an environment whereby the conduct of its students must be in keeping with the school’s goals and objectives relative to character development …. [and] will maintain an environment in which all students will learn and exhibit acceptable character traits ….” While laudable in intent, it’s potentially dangerous when schools overseen by the state try to teach “character,” for who wants to have Big Brother defining what is character? That is the province of the family, often through the form of religious education, neither of which are part of the state.
In and of itself, this ought to negate that policy decision. But there’s a legal objection as well, for federal law mandates that schools must give all students who might be, are or have been pregnant equal access to school programs and extracurricular activities. Further, while this may include home study or separate provision, these can be done only on a voluntary basis, not as required.
So the school through this policy is trying to fill in the gaps where other agents have failed for whatever reason to encourage good character, because that is instrumental to leading a better life and making a greater contribution to society. And getting pregnant while unmarried is not a sign of good character, hence the policy to discourage that and to discourage other students from being lead to believe that it should be considered normal and acceptable (even as government itself contradicts this message through generous welfare policies.)
(I will elaborate on this for those who think that God’s and nature’s laws don’t apply to them: anyone complicit in intentionally or through reasonably-understood neglect causes a female to become or who is a female that becomes pregnant when they are not married to each other does not exhibit good character. They do not because it is very clear that children with only one parent are more likely to bear worse life prospects, and it is bad character to create that situation when it reasonably can be prevented. The only thing worse in this case is killing the human life before it is born only because it will be too “inconvenient” for the unmarried female. That anything less than discouragement should be visited upon the idea that it is acceptable that those who willingly get pregnant or impregnate a female, or who through their actions create situations where there is a reasonable expectation that this may occur, where neither party is married to the other, is ludicrous and injurious to society.)
Actually, the policy does not seem to indicate that failure to follow it by a suspected pregnant girl, can be enforced, as it cannot force her not to attend regular class. But it does indicate that if pregnant, involuntarily “the student shall not be allowed to attend classes on the campus” of the school.
Therefore, to fulfill its mission the school must find a way neither to force character education on unwilling families’ children nor to violate federal law. And it can, by giving families the opportunity to accept its version of character education voluntarily. After all, no child is forced to go to a charter school and other public school alternatives exist in Delhi, so the school could require families who want children to attend to sign a waiver concerning its character expectations, including waiving their child’s rights under federal law regarding involuntary differential treatment of pregnant students.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 12:10