Coast Guard cadet who was disenrolled for having a child receives settlement

Elizabeth Regan

The Day, New London, Conn.

Oct. 7—NEW LONDON — Eight years after former U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadet Isaak Olson was disenrolled from the school during his senior year because of his newfound “parental obligation,” a settlement agreement has awarded him a mechanical engineering degree and the opportunity to apply to become a commissioned officer.

A lawsuit filed on his behalf last December in the District of Connecticut, challenged a Coast Guard Academy policy that allows only cadets unencumbered by children into its ranks. The policy prohibits anyone with “maternal or paternal obligation or responsibility” from attending the academy.

Olson was disenrolled without a degree or a commission at the end of his senior year because officials found out he and his fiancee had a child the previous August.

The ACLU, The ACLU Foundation of Connecticut and Yale Law School’s Veterans Legal Services Clinic announced in a press release Thursday that they reached a settlement agreement awarding Olson his degree as well as a written statement explaining his cadet appointment was terminated solely due to the Academy’s ban on cadet parents.

A spokeswoman for the academy confirmed the settlement agreement but did not comment on it.

The academy began enrolling women in 1976. Olson’s complaint said that was the impetus for the adoption of the first policies prohibiting parents from serving as cadets.

The revision of similar policies at other service academies is already in the works following the passage of the federal Defense Authorization Act, which governs military branches overseen by the US Department of Defense.

But the Coast Guard is overseen by the US Department of Homeland Security. Its authorization bill is still going through the legislative process, with a provision to preserve the parental rights of cadets who become pregnant or father a child while attending the Academy.

A spokeswoman for Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D- Connecticut, said the senator supported the parenthood provision and the rest of the Coast Guard authorization bill. He declined through his spokeswoman to comment on the settlement agreement.

Linda Morris, staff attorney with the ACLU Women’s Rights Project, described bans on parenthood as “wrong for every military service academy.”

” The Coast Guard Academy’s ban on parenthood was adopted only after it began admitting women as cadets, and is rooted in harmful and outdated gender stereotypes. The Biden administration can and should act immediately to end this discriminatory policy at the Coast Guard Academy,” she said in the release.

The lawsuit was lodged against the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, the commandant of the US Coast Guard and the superintendent of the Academy. In the response to Olson’s initial complaint, the military leaders acknowledged a 1977 amendment to the Academy’s policies that specified a process for reviewing instances of pregnancy and parenthood on a case-by-case basis. They said they didn’t know if that was the first time the Academy adopted a restriction on parenthood.

The defendants also acknowledged the review process has changed to eliminate that discretion..

Olson’s team described the current implementation as a “categorical ban.”

Knowing about the ban on parenthood and fearing he might have to pay back his government-funded education if disenrolled, the complaint said Olson didn’t inform his superiors when he found out his fiancee was pregnant during his junior year. It wasn’t until the next school year that his status as a father came to light while he was preparing for his first overseas duty assignment.

The couple agreed to terminate Olson’s parental rights so he could remain enrolled, but his appeal was still denied.

Olson went on to continue his service in the Coast Guard as an enlisted member instead of an officer, which the lawsuit said limited his income and his opportunity for professional advancement.

He is now stationed in Alaska. He and his wife have two children.

“No one should ever have to choose between the honor of being a Coast Guard cadet and the honor of being a parent,” he said in the release. “I’m thankful the Academy has reached a settlement that recognizes my right to both. Becoming a parent shouldn’t be seen as a hardship. Cadets who are parents should be afforded the same opportunity to uphold the Coast Guard’s standards as their peers. I look forward to the day that cadets are given the same rights as the rest of the service.”


(c)2022 The Day (New London, Conn.)

Visit The Day (New London, Conn.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

If you have any problems viewing this article, please report it here.