Judge to Reconsider Citadel Hair Issue : Courts: The first female cadet at the state-run military school wins a new hearing. Presiding jurist had ruled the college may shave her head.
A federal judge agreed Friday to reconsider his decision letting The Citadel shave Shannon Faulkner’s long brown hair when she becomes the military school’s first female cadet.
U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck also said Faulkner, 19, can march with the cadet corps while the school appeals his ruling that its all-male admission policy is unconstitutional.
He said the college had not shown it was likely to win on appeal. Faulkner would suffer more harm if she were kept out than The Citadel would if she were allowed in, Houck said.
The state-supported school immediately asked the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals to block her entrance, Citadel spokesman Rick Mill said.
Earlier this week, Houck said the college could shave Faulkner’s head as it does all male first-year cadets because he found no legal basis for different grooming standards based on sex.
But Atty. Gen. Janet Reno said Friday that the Justice Department filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Charleston, asking Houck to reverse or stay his decision pending an appeal to a higher court.
The motion argues that shaving her hair would “altogether denigrate Ms. Faulkner’s identity as a woman,” that courts have recognized differences for male and female police officers, and that the federal service academies also apply different rules to the sexes.
Dawes Cooke, the attorney representing The Citadel, said having Faulkner shave her head would enable her to fully enter into the culture of the school.
The first year at The Citadel is called “knob year"--because of the shape of cadets’ shaved heads, resembling doorknobs--and involves a tradition that encourages obedience to older students.
“What it means is a symbolic relinquishing of individuality. Many cadets describe it as the most humiliating moment of their lives. For us to say to Faulkner that she be treated differently would hurt her chances for assimilation into the corps.”
Houck set a hearing on the matter for Wednesday, five days before Faulkner is to enroll.
Faulkner had no comment Friday. She has said she would submit to having her head shaved if necessary.
The hearing does not mean Houck will change his mind but “we’re very pleased with the development,” said Sara Mandelbaum, an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping to represent Faulkner.
The motion by the Justice Department, which intervened on her side last year, also argued that Faulkner should not be segregated for her personal safety but allowed to be treated as any other cadet.
The words “Die Shannon” were painted on a sign recently, and safety is a concern of both sides in the case.
Whether locks will be provided for her room has not been decided, but Houck said some provision should be made for her security. The Citadel agreed to lock side doors adjacent to Faulkner’s room 24 hours a day.
Faulkner was accepted to The Citadel after she asked a high school counselor to delete references to sex on her transcript. The school then rejected her after officials learned she was a woman.
She sued, and attended day classes under Houck’s order last semester.
The Citadel, which has about 2,000 students, is one of only two state-supported all-male military colleges. The other, the Virginia Military Institute, also has been fighting a court battle over admission of women.