Army Contests Claims of Discrimination Against Pregnant Officers

Students listen to a speech at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan, April 10, 2013. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)
Students listen to a speech at the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan, April 10, 2013. (U.S. Army/Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade)

The senior leadership at Army Command and General Staff College is pushing back on recent allegations that the institution discriminated against pregnant officers last year, barring them from attending the 10-month course.

Brig. Gen. Scott Efflandt, deputy commandant for the leadership course, responded to a July 9 TaskandPurpose.com article written by two female Army officers who allege that school officials informed them, and several other pregnant officers, upon arrival at CGSC that "due to their physical state they would not be allowed to attend."

"No officer has been denied attendance at this course for being pregnant; their slating and scheduling is adjudicated by that officer and [the officer’s] assignments, but it's a question of how and when, not if," Efflandt told Military.com on July 12.

The article reported that the school leadership told Army Maj. Jenny Gunderson she could not start the course and said "if she were to come back next week and not be pregnant, they would reconsider."

"She asked if they were insinuating she should get an abortion, to which she received no response," according to the article.

CGSC is investigating this allegation, Efflandt said.

"It is unacceptable for anybody to infer or state that somebody should get an abortion," he said. "The command is looking into that, and they are conducting an investigation and will take appropriate actions based on the outcome of that investigation."

The article also reported that Maj. Maryorie Hegard and Maj. Jamie Spayde were informed they would not be able to attend the course while pregnant.

"The school's reasoning for deferment and disenrollment was due to a policy regarding anticipatable absences," the article states. "All three successfully fought the policy and graduated."

Efflandt said it's clear the situation was mishandled, adding that students have long-term absences for many reasons such as severe injuries, illnesses, pregnancies and operational requirements.

"I am not denying how they feel. Clearly, they were unhappy," he said. "The student leadership is going to learn from that. It has already learned from that. And although we handled it poorly, in the end the system corrected and the officers got to participate in the course and were successful."

Efflandt said CGSC changed its absentee policy in December as part of a curriculum redesign that is unrelated to the discrimination allegations described in the article.

"The feedback from the field was the majors coming out to the field in the current operating environment conversant in the military planning processes, the military-decision making process -- that has caused us at the college to go back and change our curriculum," he said. The new curriculum involves more group work "that much closer replicates the demands they are going to see out in the Army."

As a result, CGSG updated its absentee policy letter to ensure students with long absences have options for achieving the learning objectives of the course, Efflandt said.

"There will be certain events, people, circumstances that aren't addressed by the policy letter, and we know that," he said. "There is a place in the procedures for the student to apply for an exception, and those are judged on a case-by-case basis. That type of mechanism was in the previous policy that was in effect when the authors [of the Task and Purpose article] went through the course, and as a result, they graduated the course."

-- Matthew Cox can be reached at matthew.cox@military.com.

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