In 1970, Jo Carol LaFleur, a teacher at Patrick Henry Junior High School in Cleveland, became pregnant. A school board policy required all pregnant teachers to take mandatory unpaid maternity leave five months before the due date of the child. They allowed return to the teaching position the year after the child reached three months and with a doctor’s certification of the mother’s health. Ms. LaFleur and another teacher, Ann Nelson, sued the Cleveland Board of Education in federal court, alleging that the school violated their rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Represented by Jane Picker, the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where another plaintiff, Susan Cohen from Virginia, joined Ms. LaFleur and Ms. Nelson. The Supreme Court ruled in the teachers’ favor and found that the board violated their rights to due process. The Court declared that “freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.”

The ACLU submitted an amicus brief in support of Ms. LaFleur and urged the Court to uphold her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. Several lawyers aided the ACLU in drafting the amicus brief, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who would later become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Find the case here.

Date filed

March 26, 1971