My mother got pregnant when she was seventeen. Luckily, she was able to nab her diploma before she started showing. Otherwise, in order to be excused from PE requirements, the gym coach at her school forced pregnant students to stand in front of the class and publicly flagellate themselves. My mother saw it happen to a schoolmate and says she will never forget the girls face, frozen with fear and humiliation. Years later, I had the same gym coach. Every time I looked at her, all I could think about was what kind of smallness had to exist inside of a person to do that to another human being, to a child no less? Whenever she blew her omnipresent whistle, I ran as far as I could away from her.

Man, I thought, I’m so glad that was then and this is . . . oh my god this practice is still going on! Yesterday, a middle school student named Shantelle sued her school after staff members forced her to stand up at an assembly and announce to the entire student body that she was pregnant. Until that moment, Shantelle had not revealed to anyone at school (other than her sister) that she was pregnant.

This wasn’t the first time the school had tried to humiliate Shantelle. Earlier, when school officials found out Shantelle was pregnant, they kicked her out of school. The ACLU of New Mexico wrote to the school to let them know that schools are not allowed to discriminate against students because they are pregnant. The school relented and re-enrolled Shantelle after a four-day suspension.

But apparently, the school was not done trying to bully Shantelle. Only two weeks later, school officials decided to hold an assembly and march this poor young woman in front of her classmates. The ACLU believes that the school director humiliated Shantelle in retaliation for her refusal to leave school quietly. Either way, that brand of cruelty is no longer just unfathomably cruel – it’s also illegal.

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