Gallup teen, ACLU sue school for exploiting pregnancy at assembly | News
A Gallup teen says she was kicked out of middle school then publicly humiliated by the school’s director and counselor because she was pregnant.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of New Mexico filed suit Tuesday against the Wingate Elementary School and the officials on behalf of Shantelle Hicks, 15.
Hicks was a student at the Wingate boarding school, which is near Gallup and is run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
She claims school administrators violated her constitutional right to equal protection under the law, Title IX’s prohibitions against sex and pregnancy discrimination and violations of her right to privacy.
The suit claims the officials kicked Hicks out of school last fall after learning she was pregnant.
They readmitted her four days later, after the ACLU of New Mexico sent a demand letter informing them that it is illegal to deny a student access to education because of pregnancy status.
About two weeks after that, the director of the middle school and another staff member had Hicks stand before the entire middle school at an assembly and announced that she was pregnant.
Until that point, no one other than Hicks’ sister knew of her condition.
“It was so embarrassing to have all the other kids staring at me as I walked into the gymnasium,” said Hicks in an ACLU news release. “I didn’t want the whole school to know I was pregnant because it’s not their business, and it wasn’t right for my teachers to single me out.”
The ACLU’s lawsuit seeks punitive damages and declaratory relief for violations of Hicks’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law and of Title IX prohibitions against sex and pregnancy discrimination in education.
“We believe that Wingate intentionally humiliated Shantelle in retaliation for her refusal to leave the school,” said ACLU of New Mexico cooperating attorney Barry Klopfer.
“It is outrageous that educators would subject a young woman in their care to such cruelty. Adopting one’s moral convictions from the Scarlet Letter is completely inappropriate and fails to take into account a child’s educational needs.”
We have a crew headed to Gallup to talk to the people involved in this story and will have much more for you in our evening newscasts.