CHARLESTON, S.C. — A federal appeals court opened the way Thursday for Shannon Faulkner to become the first woman to take part in military training at The Citadel.
A panel of the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that South Carolina's all-male military college violated Faulkner's rights under the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment in refusing to admit her.
The 2-1 decision upheld an order last July by U.S. District Judge C. Weston Houck, who ended 151 years of all-male military education at the Charleston school.
Faulkner has been attending classes at The Citadel since January, 1994, under an order from Houck but had not been allowed to take part in military training or wear a uniform while the case was being appealed.
The appeals court ordered the school to admit Faulkner to the corps of cadets in August unless it can come up with an alternative plan to give women military-style education by then.
But the panel also said it was unlikely that the school could have such a plan ready by the fall, when Faulkner will be a junior. Cadets cannot begin the program after their junior year.
The Citadel's lawyer, Dawes Cooke, said school officials have been working on an alternative plan and might have one in time.
"We're basically where we were last summer, playing beat the clock again," said Faulkner, a 20-year-old sophomore. "I'm very optimistic about getting in."
Her mother, Sandy, reached by phone at the family's Powdersville, S.C., home, let out a little cheer and laughed.
Faulkner applied to The Citadel in 1993 after having her high school guidance counselor delete references to her sex on her transcript. The college accepted her, then rejected her after learning she is a woman.
Faulkner sued, claiming that the school's all-male policy amounted to sex discrimination, and Houck agreed.
The Citadel argued during a trial last May that staying all male was not discrimination but part of a state policy of offering a variety of choices in higher education. The school also said there was no demand by women for a Citadel-type education.
The Citadel and Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., are the only state-supported, all-male military colleges in the nation, and both have been sued by the Justice Department over their policies.
In the VMI case, courts have ruled that the school can set up a military-style program for women at nearby Mary Baldwin College.