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Girls Sue NYC School, Board of Ed Over Forced STD and Pregnancy Testing

New York City public school officials forced two young women to be tested for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases because they attended a “hooky party,” claimed the New York Civil Liberties Union in a federal lawsuit filed last week. The young women, students at Intermediate School 164, skipped school to attend the party along with ten other students, and were called to the principal’s office upon their return to school the next day, reported the Associated Press. School officials had heard that some students at the party were having sex, and the young women were not permitted to return to classes until they produced doctors’ notes reporting the results of pregnancy and STD tests, according to the New York Times. The two plaintiffs, who have both since graduated from IS 164, ask in their complaint for unspecified monetary damages, an apology from the Department of Education, removal of any mention of the incident from the students’ permanent records, and better training for school officials on issues of student privacy.

The girls were not permitted to see their own doctors for the tests. The younger plaintiff said, in a statement released through her lawyer, “The tests were painful and embarrassing, and… I had to go to a doctor I’d never met before,” according to CNN. “The whole experience was awful and really upsetting.” The NYCLU heard of the incident from medical professionals at the clinic the girls were sent to. The staff was surprised by the girls’ request for notes about the test results and contacted the civil liberties organization to report their concerns about the confidentiality of the girls’ medical records, according to the Times. Dr. David Bell, who saw several of the affected students, expressed outrage at the implications of using a visit to a health care provider as a punishment. “When you force teens to undergo intrusive medical procedures as punishment, you alienate them from the health care system and health providers they need to be able to rely on and trust in order to protect their well-being,” Dr. Bell told CNN.

“Our jaws just dropped when we heard what went on,” Anna Schissel, a lawyer with the NYCLU, told CNN. NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman called the girls’ punishment, “completely unheard of,” reported Newday. “It violates their right to privacy. It violated their right to go to school. It violated their right not to be subjected to summary punishment.” Lieberman added, “There seems to be an assumption here that if they had tested positive for pregnancy or for an STD that they would not have been allowed back in school,” reported the Associated Press. “That’s clearly wrong under the law.” Schools Chancellor Joel Klein said there were differing accounts of the incident and that the department would “respond appropriately in court,” according to the Associated Press. But an official with the Department of Education, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Times that any policy that keeps kids out of school on the basis of medical test results would never be accepted by the community.

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Sources:

New York Times 7/9/03; CNN 7/8/03; Associated Press 7/8/03; Kaiser Network 7/10/03; BBC News 7/13/03