The ACLU of PA and the ACLU Women's Rights Project are assisting Widener Civil Law Clinic in a suit against Central Dauphin School District onbehalf of a 16-year-old mother who has repeatedly been charged with truancy for child-care-related school absences.
A.C. is a student who attends school full time, works part-time at McDonald's and lives at home with her mother and three younger siblings. She gave birth to her son when she was 13. A.C. relies on her own mother for child care while she attends Central Dauphin East High School, but there are times when she must miss class to care for her son. In one instance, she missed school to care for her child when he was ill - and produced a doctor's note to verify her absence. She has also missed school to attend doctor appointments with her child and to cover for her own mother when she cannot provide child care because of personal reasons, responsibilities or commitments on behalf of A.C.'s three siblings.
On multiple occasions the school district has brought truancy charges against A.C. - who was an honor-roll student last year and wants to study criminal justice in college. Once, she was found guilty and fined $348. A.C. was threatened with loss of custody of her son if she did not pay the fine and stop missing school. The decision to file the federal lawsuit was made after A.C. and her mother sought help from the Widener Civil Law Clinic for assistance with her truancy cases.
The lawsuit seeks to stop the school district from prosecuting the teen for absences related to her 2-year-old son. It also seeks a court judgment declaring that the young woman has a constitutional right to parent her child and that Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against parenting students.