Posted on January 14, 2002 Issues: Education & Title IX Pregnant & Parenting Students

For Immediate Release: January 14, 2002
Contact: Margot Friedman or Lela Shepard, 202-588-5180, www.nwlc.org

Virginia Military Institute’s “Parenting” Policy Discriminates Against Female Cadets, Says NWLC
National Women’s Rights Group Serves VMI with Demand Letter

(Washington, D.C.) In a letter delivered to Virginia Military Institute today, the National Women’s Law Center warned the school that its new policy of expelling cadets who get married or become parents is illegal sex discrimination. Because it will become visible when a female student is pregnant, but proof may not be available when a male student causes a pregnancy, the policy is unfair to women. In addition, VMI’s purported concerns about parenting are misguided.

“The U.S. military called up mothers and fathers to active duty and they are serving admirably in Afghanistan right now. VMI is totally off base with its discriminatory rule,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, NWLC Co-President. NWLC filed the lead friend-of-the-court brief supporting the women in the 1996 U.S. Supreme Court case that required VMI to admit female cadets.

In a letter delivered today to Major General Josiah Bunting III, VMI’s Superintendent, NWLC said that the parenting policy violates the U.S. Constitution, Title IX (the federal law that bars discrimination on the basis of sex in educational institutions that receive federal funds), and Virginia’s Human Rights Act.

The letter demonstrates that this VMI policy is part of its longstanding pattern of excluding female cadets. When VMI was an all-male institution, the school ignored, and refused to penalize, male cadets who fathered children and undertook the duties of fatherhood. Moreover, VMI did not enforce its then-existing policy prohibiting cadets from marrying when VMI was all-male. It was only after a female cadet became pregnant last year that VMI instituted the new policy.

Greenberger expressed concern that VMI’s approach not only unfairly penalizes pregnant and parenting cadets, but may cause young women to terminate their pregnancies so they can remain in school.

The full text of NWLC’s letter to VMI is available at www.nwlc.org or by calling 202-588-5180.

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