Dear Reader editor:
Tori Marlan's article on the shameful treatment of Nancy Castro by Cristo Rey high school [October 27] reminded me of another example of bizarre school policy. In 1992, during my senior year at a coed Catholic high school in Joliet, we were informed during our mandatory religion class that although female students who became pregnant during their matriculation would be permitted to remain enrolled at the school, if those same female students were legally to marry their impregnators (or anyone else), they would be expelled. Our teacher explained the logic behind this policy; the school administrators assumed single pregnant girls to have made an isolated, forgivable mistake, whereas they considered it improper to expose the general student population to a married girl, pregnant or otherwise, who might regularly be having sexual relations with her husband. Fornication did not in and of itself prevent graduation, but a marriage license meant no diploma.
Public schools have made strange bedfellows too, or rather prohibited them. In the fall of 1936, my grandmother had to resign from her teaching position in a one-room schoolhouse in Point Pleasant Township, Illinois, because her first pregnancy had begun to show. She and my grandfather had secretly married in 1934 and lived apart so that she could keep her lucrative job for as long as possible. The policy against having a married teacher was apparently widespread in the U.S. I have been unable to determine when it was finally discontinued.