- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 8, 2001

A federal judge has dismissed the lawsuit against the Virginia Military Institute that forced the state-run military school to accept women for the first time in its 162-year history, ending a 10-year-old legal battle between VMI and the state's Justice Department.
U.S. District Judge Jackson L. Kiser dismissed the case late Thursday, saying Virginia and VMI fulfilled their obligation "to formulate, adopt, and implement a plan that conforms with the Equal Protection Clause," according to the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The decision ends the court's supervision of VMI, alma mater of many military leaders, including Confederate Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who was a student and later a professor.
"This decision is a vindication of many years of dedication and hard work by hundreds of members of the VMI family," school superintendent Maj. Gen. Josiah Bunting III said in a statement. "We are pleased we were able to conclude this case without compromising the Institute's core values."
"We believe the court's order had been fulfilled by having a successful addition of women to the ranks of VMI," said Randy Davis, spokesman for Virginia Attorney General's Office.
Mr. Davis said the office of Attorney General Randolph A. Beales, who last night was at a conference in California, is pleased VMI is no longer under supervision of the federal court regarding female admission.
VMI was the last male-only public military school in the United States. The U.S. Justice Department filed suit against VMI in 1991, and the U.S. Supreme Court ordered it in 1996 to admit women, ruling that a school operating on public funds cannot exclude eligible members of the public.
The federal government took similar action against The Citadel, a formerly all-male, state-run military school in South Carolina that was forced to admit women in 1994.
In May, 13 women graduated from VMI, its first four-year class of female cadets.
Kent Willis, executive director of the Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief against VMI, commended the institute for its "positive strides" in accepting and integrating women to its program.
"However, it seems premature to dismiss this case as that process does not seem to be entirely complete," Mr. Willis said last night, pointing to the school's policy mandating dismissal of female students who become pregnant and male students who cause a pregnancy.
"It clearly treats women differently from men and would seem to be in direct violation of federal regulations," Mr. Willis said.
The ACLU would explore filing a lawsuit against VMI if the proposal is accepted by the Board of Visitors, Mr. Willis said.
VMI spokesman Lt. Col. Charles J. Steenburgh said the policy already has passed the scrutiny of Judge Kiser and does not need further justification.
"Just because the ACLU jumps up and says they have a problem with it, I don't see any reason we should take heed of them," Lt. Col. Steenburgh said.
In May, the board asked the school administration to develop a regulation that would end a cadet's career at VMI if he or she was involved in a pregnancy. Three months earlier, a cadet had become pregnant at VMI; the unidentified woman remained in school.
The policy could be addressed today at the board's monthly meeting, Col. Steenburgh said. If passed, the new policy would not affect cadets who are currently pregnant or who already are parents.
Stephen Dinan contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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