Regulatory policy

Coast Guard Academy settles lawsuit over no-parents policy

NEW LONDON, Conn. — A Coast Guard Academy cadet who was expelled for becoming a father will graduate as part of a legal settlement, his attorneys said Thursday.

Isaak Olson sued the academy in December after years of trying to be reinstated as a caddy. He was two months away from graduating, with a degree in mechanical engineering and a commission as an officer, when he revealed in 2014 that his fiancée had given birth to their first child, according to the lawsuit.

“No one should ever have to choose between the honor of being a Coast Guard cadet and the honor of being a parent,” Olson said Thursday in a statement released by his attorneys. He said he was “grateful that the academy has come to a settlement that recognizes my right to both”.

A message was left with the Coast Guard Academy seeking comment.

At least at the time the lawsuit was filed, an academy regulation prohibited cadets from having “any maternal or paternal obligation or responsibility,” according to the lawsuit. Olson’s attorneys said the policy is still in effect.

Olson learned of his fiancee’s pregnancy in April of his freshman year and the baby was born in August 2013, according to the lawsuit. He said he was never asked about dependents until he received a service verification request in March 2014 and disclosed the birth of the child.

The couple saw Olson’s parental rights terminated in hopes of allowing him to graduate, and he then went through a lengthy administrative process to try to restore his status, to no avail, according to his lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Connecticut, and the Yale Law School Veterans Legal Services Clinic.

Along the way, Olson enlisted in the Coast Guard, and the couple got married and had another child, the attorneys said.

The lawsuit targeted his commission and back pay, as he earns less than he would as an officer. It is not immediately clear whether the settlement resolved either of these issues; an inquiry was sent to his lawyers.

“Becoming a parent shouldn’t be seen as an ordeal,” Olson said in his statement. “I look forward to the day when cadets will have the same rights as the rest of the service.”

The federal law that funded and authorized the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2022 gives the military until the end of December to develop “regulations that include the ability to preserve parental guardianship rights” for cadets or aspirants who become pregnant or father children when they are one year old. departmental service academies.

The law applies to the U.S. military academy, naval academy, and air force academy, but not the coast guard academy, which is run by the Department of internal security.