AB: ACLU, Title IX, teen pregnancy

Linda Purrington (lpurring@earthlink.net)
Sun, 09 Aug 1998 08:49:57 -0700

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Somer Chipman and Chasity Glass,
17-year-old high school students in Grant County, Ky., whose motherhood bars
them from a high school honor society. (Al Behrman/AP=20 The Associated Press

C O V I N G T O N, Ky., Aug. 7-97
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of two
teen-age mothers who were barred from a high school honor society.The lawsuit,
filed Thursday, charges the Grant County school district with sex discrimination
for barring 17-year-olds Somer Chipman and Chasity Glass from the National Honor

The school board illegally discriminated against the students in violation of
Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination against
pregnant or parenting adults, the lawsuit states. It also charges that the
district violated prohibitions against sex discrimination in the state and
federal Constitutions and the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Treating pregnant or
parenting students differently is sex discrimination because all pregnant
students are female and the overwhelming majority of students raising children
are also female, said Sara Mandelbaum, senior staff attorney with the Women's
Rights Project of the ACLU.

We believe this case has national significance because there is a
nationwide problem with school districts discriminating against female students
and not giving them the support they need, said Ms. Mandelbaum.

Schools Back Society
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Covington on behalf of Ms.
Chipman and Ms. Glass, both students at Grant County High School in
Williamstown, Ky., about 30 miles south of Cincinnati. The girls were the only
ones out of 33 academically eligible Grant County High School juniors denied
membership in the school's National Honor Society this spring. They challenged
the decision, charging that they were excluded because they became pregnant
through premarital sex. But the school board upheld the honor society's
decision, saying there was no violation of admission criteria or district
procedures against discrimination. School district spokeswoman Ruth Odor said
Thursday that the district would not comment on pending litigation. Ms. Chipman,
who was pregnant during the society selections, gave birth to baby girl Cheyenne
in June. Ms. Glass is the mother of 15-month-old Shelby. Both students issued
statements Thursday.

It is important that society understands that not all teen mothers are
thoughtless and irresponsible, said Ms. Chipman. In fact, we are
individuals and deserve fair and equal treatment in our school careers and
in the lives we choose thereafter. Ms. Glass said she does not believe her
pregnancy shows lack of character. I do not advocate teen-age pregnancy, but I
want people to know that I have continued to uphold my personal standards as
well as the school's standards, she said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages for emotional distress and
asks the court to order the honor society to accept the girls as members.

Forwarded by lpurring@earthlink.net

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