(CN) – The Pine Bluff School District tried to block one of its students from competing in the 2010 national science fair because she was pregnant, the student claims in Federal Court in Pine Bluff, Ark.
Plaintiff V.D., who sued anonymously through her mother, says her high school science fair project won second place at the district science fair and first place in the regional fair.
The girl, then an 11th grade student at Pine Bluff High School, says she won 81 awards for academic excellence within the Pine Bluff school district since 1993.
The girl’s mother says the regional science fair teacher representative, Wilma Kindle, told her that her daughter could not go on to the national science fair because she was pregnant.
“Ms. Kindle further told [the mother] that V.D. should hold on to the prize money V.D. won at the regional science fair so that V.D. could pass it on to the alternate who would take V.D.’s place at the national science fair,” according to the complaint.
The girl’s mother claims that at parent-teacher conference night a week later, Kindle said V.D. was not allowed to represent the school in future events because she was pregnant,
When themother and V.D. met with the superintendent, Frank Anthony, he did not offer seats to them, and they had to stand during the entire meeting, according to the complaint.
“During this meeting, separate defendant Anthony scolded V.D. and advised V.D. that she has placed herself in a situation where she could not represent the school at any future events,” according to the complaint. “V.D. began to cry.”
The mother claims after she and her daughter pleaded with Anthony, he said V.D. could keep the prize money from regionals and attend the national science fair as an observer with her mother.
Anthony told the mother and her daughter that the girl could not participate in the fair without a teacher representative, and she could not have a teacher representative since “his teachers felt ‘uncomfortable’ going with V.D. to the national science fair because V.D. was pregnant,” according to the complaint.
The girl’s mother says Anthony refused to put in writing that V.D. could attend the fair as an observer with her mother.
Since V.D. had written permission from her doctor to attend the national science fair, “V.D.’s pregnancy should not be an issue,” the lawsuit states.
The mother claims that since she happened to work as a teacher in the Pine Bluff School District, she was qualified to act as V.D.’s representative.
Though the school district usually covers teacher representative expenditures, the mother says she paid for plane tickets, a rental car and other travel expenses to attend the science fair in San Francisco.
“Denying a student the benefit of having a teacher representative at the National Science Fair is akin to sending the high school football team to a national championship without a coach,” according to the complaint. “In addition, plaintiff’s sister graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff during the National Science Fair, and plaintiff’s mother had to miss this once-in-a-lifetime event to attend the National Science Fair with V.D. because of the defendants’ unlawful actions.”
The mother and V.D. are suing the school district and school board of Pine Bluff, Anthony, and seven individual school board members for allegedly violating Title IX and the due process and equal protection clauses of the Constitution.
They seek an injunction and punitive damages, and are represented by Chrishauna Clark.