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For One Charter School – Pregnant Students Need Not Apply

This piece is part of series that will be look at the requirements of state and locally approved charter schools operating in Georgia.

Hope for ALL Students?

EmpowerED Georgia’s Myths piece caused quite a stir.  We received e-mails from parents who had children that had been “kicked out” or “screened out” of charter schools.  We received e-mails that insisted that charter schools are public schools and that charter schools do not have the authority to kick out or screen out kids.

EmpowerED Georgia started looking into the contracts, handbooks, and application processes of charter schools that are operating in Georgia.  We came across a lot of eyebrow-raising practices from both locally authorized and state authorized charter schools.  These practices have largely gone unreported from media outlets and have been largely ignored from charter school/amendment proponents.  We will be highlighting these practices and the need for reform in this and future pieces.

Pregnant Students Need Not Apply

From its research, EmpowerED Georgia found one Georgia charter school that prohibits pregnant students from being entered into the charter’s lottery or from attending the charter school.

According to the charter school’s handbook:

“No student who is or has been pregnant may attend [school’s name]. No student who fathers or has fathered a child may attend [school’s name].”

This practice should not be one that debates the morality of teen pregnancy, but should focus on whether a school that is receiving public funding should be allowed to keep out certain students.

Other questions come into mind.  How is pregnancy proven (if the student is early on in their pregnancy)?  How is “fathering of a child” proven? Does the school require suspected students to take pregnancy or DNA tests?

Recently, a school in Louisiana got into trouble for how they handled the pregnancy issue. Click here for the article

Charter proponents often tout flexibility from regulations and innovation as key strengths of charter schools, but denying pregnant students admittance should not be an allowable flexibility and ignoring the needs of certain students is not being innovative.

One response that EmpowerED Georgia received from its Myths piece was that traditional public schools can “kick out” students too, so we decided to look at this particular charter’s traditional school counterpart.

According to the local traditional school’s handbook:

Pregnant Students

Pregnant students should advise school personnel of their condition as soon as they discover they are pregnant. It may be beneficial to contact the Assistant Principal/Social Worker to explore options.

Pregnant students may receive Homebound instruction only if their pregnancy requires as absence of more than ten (10) consecutive days due to confirmed medical complications. Pregnant students must have a doctor's certification requesting Homebound instruction. All Homebound requests are handled in Social Worker's office.

Expectant mothers and fathers are encouraged to attend school support groups and enroll in parenting classes.

Notice how the local traditional public school is actually attempting to not only address the academic challenges associated with teenage pregnancy, but to help those students through a particularly challenging point in their lives.  The charter spends two sentences addressing the challenge, whereas, the local traditional schools spends an entire paragraph addressing the challenge and supporting the student in whatever way they can (urging student to contact Social Workers, prepare for absences, and participate in parenting classes/support groups).

To be fair, EmpowerED Georgia only found one charter school that targeted pregnant students, but we found many with very strict attendance policies.  The real issue is not how many charters are engaged in the practice of prohibiting pregnant students, but that any charter would be allowed to do so while receiving public funds.

Proponents claim that the charter issue is about putting the needs of students first, but reforms must be put into place that ensures that the needs of all students are addressed.  On this, proponents continue to be silent.

 

You may also be interested in reading:

EmpowerED Georgia's Blueprint to Reform Charter Schools (http://www.empoweredga.org/charter-blueprint.html

8 Myths About the Proposed Charter Amendment

EmpowerED Georgia Empowers Georgians for Public Education

Russell Stanton September 29, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Your "Myths/Facts", they are so off-base as to not warrant a response from anyone serious about this issue. As an example, here is one of your facts: "Fact: True competition can only exist if the same system of rules and regulations are in place for all participating parties. Comparing charters and traditional public schools is like comparing apples and oranges. Charters can kick out students, whereas traditional public schools must educate every child that enters their doors. Charters can mandate parental involvement and acceptable student behavior, whereas traditional public schools have no such authority. Charters can screen students, whereas traditional public schools are committed to educating every child. " Each statement you make here is completely false (if you don't believe me, run this "fact" by Lou Erste at the Charter Division of the Ga DOE). Charter schools cannot "kick out" students any reasons other that what a local district can. They must have a comprehensive discipline policy and must enforce it much like a local district. Also, charters cannot "mandate" parental involvement. Many of them have that as a focus (and even ask parents/students to agree to it), but they have no ability to remove a student if they don't comply.
Russell Stanton September 29, 2012 at 10:05 PM
Also, charters cannot (by law) screen students......they have to take all students that apply. If they have more that apply than they have spaces for, they must conduct a lottery to determine who attends. Your facts are not facts at all....they are merely your opinions, and many of those are severely mis-guided. Again, don't take my word for it. Ask the DOE and they'll let you know how off-base most of your "facts" are.
Paul Patel October 02, 2012 at 10:41 AM
Mr. Jones, I hope you base your teaching on more accurate data than the untrue and overblown claims here. Your credibility went down to 0%. Check your facts. The only charter school in Georgia with admission criteria and the ability to exclude is the Gwinnett Math and Science Academy and it is not really a charter school. It is Gwinnett school board's facade of a charter school totally under the control and management of the school system. If you are going to oppose anything, at least base it on facts.

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