Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Pregnancy Discirmination Lawsuit Filed in New Mexico

Last week the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of an eighth-grade student at Wingate Elementary School in Fort Wingate, New Mexico, for discriminating against the plaintiff, Shantelle Hicks, on the basis of her pregnancy in violation of Title IX and constitutional law. According to the complaint, school officials initially told Shantelle. that she could no longer attend school after she told them she was pregnant. They encouraged her to enroll in an alternative high school with a program for pregnant teens. However, when Shantelle asserted her right to remain in school -- Title IX regulations allow students to enroll in special programs for pregnant students, but only on a voluntary basis--school officials endeavored to drive her out by humiliation. At an assembly of the entire middle school, school officials announced Shantelle's pregnancy, which had been private matter until then.

The complaint alleges violations of Title IX arising from both the school's decision to exclude Shantelle from Wingate and from the announcement of her pregnancy as retaliation for asserting her rights to remain in school. The complaint also alleges that the school's disclosure violated her due process right not to have private information revealed, as well as violating her First Amendment right by attempting through retaliation to deter her from asserting her right to continue to attend school. The lawsuit seeks damages from emotional harm, declaratory relief, and an injunction requiring school officials to attend training about pregnancy discrimination.

Wingate Elementary is a boarding school run by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.