- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 30, 2001

Virginia Military Institute officials are going forward with a policy to expel any cadet who becomes pregnant or impregnates someone, but concerns over the plan's legality have delayed its implementation.
The academy had initially planned to have the policy in place at the start of the school year, which began Tuesday.
"Parenthood is incompatible with what is expected of a cadet," said VMI spokesman Lt. Col. Charles J. Steenburgh on Tuesday. "This policy will be an extension of our long-standing policy on marriage, which is also incompatible with being a cadet."
First adopted by VMI's Board of Visitors in May, the policy prompted criticism that it would pressure female cadets into having abortions, and would invade cadets' privacy.
VMI officials insist such criticism has not delayed the policy's inception. Legal difficulties, rather, have prompted the institute to take extra time in drafting the new policy.
"This policy obviously touches very closely upon some very important legal issues," Lt. Col. Steenburgh said. "We're working with legal counsel, and there's no question that it will take some care to make sure we craft it correctly."
At issue is the federal Title IX law, prohibiting sex discrimination at colleges and universities and other educational facilities that receive federal funds.
The law states that recipients of federal funding must not exclude any student from participating in its educational program or activity, including extracurricular activities, based on a student's pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from such termination, unless the student voluntarily requests to be excluded.
The Justice Department is reviewing whether the policy would be in violation of this law. If found to contravene the law, the $638,400 in federal funding that VMI receives would be jeopardized, a Justice Department source told The Washington Times in July.
"We have received a copy of the policy issued in July and are currently reviewing it," Justice Department spokesman Dan Nelson said yesterday. He declined comment on whether the proposed policy would be in violation of Title IX law.
Randy Davis, a spokesman for the Virginia Attorney General's Office, said, "Our office is working with VMI and the Department of Justice to make sure the new regulations pass constitutional muster," though he said it would be inappropriate to discuss the recommendations it is making to the school.
But Kent Willis, director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, expressed doubt that changing the wording would make the policy legal.
"They can continue to work on the nuances and the language of this policy, but if the effect of the policy is that pregnant women will be required to leave the school, then it's a direct violation of Title IX law," he said.
If implemented, the policy would be the toughest among military academies, including the federally supported service academies, such as the Naval Academy in Annapolis, which allows enrolled women who have become pregnant to take a leave of absence.
VMI's enrollment figures show a leveling off in the number of female cadets. Twenty-four of this year's 430 freshmen are women, compared with roughly 30 in 1997, when a Supreme Court ruling forced VMI to admit women.
At other military colleges across the country, however, the number of female cadets is on the rise.
As of Tuesday, 112 women were in this year's freshmen class at The Citadel in South Carolina — the first time their enrollment climbed over 100 at the school.


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