The US Coast Guard Academy faces a federal lawsuit challenging its longstanding policy prohibiting enrolled cadets from being parents.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed the suit in the US District Court of Connecticut on behalf of Isaak Olson, a former cadet expelled from the institution in 2014 after the administration found out that he was a father.
Courthouse News Service reported that the mechanical engineering senior was preparing to finalize his first duty assignment, and he was asked during his screening application if he had dependents.
Olson chose to answer honestly and disclosed that his fiancée had given birth to their child before he returned to Connecticut to finish his final year. The complaint states that the academy discharged Olson without a hearing and did not compensate him for the cost of his education.
“The current regulation against parenthood is arbitrary and capricious. It arbitrarily bans parenthood no matter the circumstance, without any individualized determination of a cadet’s continued fitness or suitability for service, and is not in accordance with the regulations of the rest of the military,” the suit reads.
This parental ban has been in place since the late 1970s, following the admission of women into the academy.
Seeking Fair Compensation
Olson pushed through with the challenge after a lengthy administrative process to restore his status, commission, and back pay. He applied to an officer candidate school but was rejected because he lacked a degree.
Now, Olson is an aviation maintenance technician in Alaska, earning $3,000 less each month than he would have if he became an officer. When he was first expelled, Olson and his girlfriend tried to resolve the matter by having his parental rights terminated, but the school still refused his appeal.
“The U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s archaic regulation, which forces cadets to choose between parenthood and their degrees, has been morally wrong and unconstitutional since its inception,” ACLU Staff Attorney Elana Bildner said in a statement.
Service academies such as the US Military Academy have similar policies in place, a fact that ACLU officials state will give the outcome of this case a much broader impact.