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Connecticut News

An expelled cadet challenges the Coast Guard Academy’s rule that forbids students having children

U.S. Coast Guard Academy Regimental Review for Virtual Parents Weekend
Petty Officer 2nd Class Hunter Medley
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U.S. Coast Guard Academy
U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets conduct a regimental review Oct. 24, 2020.

The Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, expelled a cadet in 2014 for becoming a father, due to a regulation that does not allow students to have children. Isaak Olson filed a federal lawsuit this week challenging the constitutionality of the ban.

Olson became a father in 2013, right before the start of his senior year, according to court documents. He decided to give up his parental rights to get around the school’s ban on students having children, but was still expelled.

“No one should face discrimination for having children or becoming a parent,” said Elana Bildner, Olson’s attorney at the ACLU of Connecticut.

“Whether in school, in the workplace, in a military service academy, wherever it may be, your right to parent is a fundamental right that's protected by the U.S. Constitution,” Bildner said, adding that the rule went into effect in the 1970s when the Academy first began accepting female cadets.

The lawsuit claims the policy forces cadets like Olson into an “agonizing decision:” drop out of school, stay in school but give up their legal parental rights or terminate the pregnancy. The school also prohibits cadets from marrying.

David Santos, an Academy spokesperson, said the Coast Guard does “not comment on pending legal matters and therefore cannot specifically comment on this case.”

Since Olson couldn’t finish his degree and get commissioned as an officer in the Coast Guard, he claims he’s been losing out on income and career opportunities.

The case could impact the other four service academies with similar rules, including the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York.