The American Civil Liberties Union is suing a school district that prevented two teenage mothers from joining the National Honor Society.
The federal lawsuit filed Thursday accuses the Grant County School District of sex discrimination for denying Somer Chipman and Chasity Glass, both 17, admission to the Grant County High School's honor society."It is important that society understands that not all teen mothers are thoughtless and irresponsible," said Chipman, the mother of a two-month-old daughter. "In fact, we are individuals and deserve fair and equal treatment in our school careers and in the lives we choose thereafter."
A spokeswoman for the school district in Williamstown, Ky., about 30 miles south of Cincinnati, refused to comment on the lawsuit.
The National Honor Society, established in 1921, allows the more than 14,000 high school chapters across the country to set their own standards in four areas: grade point average, service, leadership and character.
The girls were the only ones out of 33 academically eligible Grant High School juniors denied membership 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.
Earlier this year, an Ohio teen was invited to join her school's chapter of the National Honor Society, but her invitation was rescinded when school officials learned she was a parent.
"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 Sara Mandelbaum, senior staff attorney with the Women's Rights Project of the ACLU.
Glass, the mother of a 15-month-old, said she does not believe her pregnancy shows lack of character.
"I do not advocate teenage 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.