A federal judge in Charlottesville refused Thursday to prevent the Harrisonburg school board from firing an unwed, pregnant teacher, saying she had not exhausted all remedies at the administrative level.
U.S. District Judge J. Harry Michael told Mary M. Thomas, 31, of Dayton, that it was premature to ask him to restrain the board from dismissing her because she can still appeal her case at the board meeting Tuesday.
In her suit, Thomas, who is expecting her baby Nov. 16, said the board and Superintendent Wayne King were discriminating against her because of her sex. She also claimed that a section of the Virginia Teachers Tenure Law that allows dismissal for "immorality" is unconstitutional because "it treats unwed parenthood as conclusive evidence of immorality."
Thomas, who has been a teacher for seven years, had requested a two-month maternity leave starting Nov. 1, saying she expected her request to be treated "on the same terms as a pregnant married teacher or other teacher under a physical disability."
Instead, King offered her an unpaid leave of absence from Aug. 22 until Jan. 20. Thomas refused, and on Aug. 23 she was suspended with pay for 15 days and King said he would recommend her dismissal.