During my second year of law school, I taught civics and civil rights in an alternative high school in D.C.—that is, a school for students who preferred or were pushed into a nontraditional setting. Almost all my students were Black, and many of them were either pregnant or already parents. In addition to trying to graduate, they had to deal with many other responsibilities most teenagers don’t even think about: scheduling doctor’s appointments; arranging and paying forchildcare; finding affordable housing; holding steady employment to support themselves and their kids. The last thing they needed was grief for being a young parent.
In July, Delaware proposed updating its regulation regarding homebound instruction for students who have to be absent for an extended period of time. Before then, Delaware’s rules barred students with “normal” pregnancies from accessing homebound instruction at all, and limited homebound instruction for pregnancy-related complications to only six weeks (even though students who qualified for homebound instruction for other medical conditions were not given any time limit). NWLC filed comments with the Delaware Department of Education in support of the proposed changes, which removed the provisions that violated Title IX.
On September 1, Delaware posted the final regulation. The law in Delaware is now unmistakably clear and aligned with federal law: (1) pregnancy-related absences must be excused for as long as the student’s doctor deems it medically necessary; and (2) students with pregnancy-related medical conditions, including recovery from childbirth, are eligible for homebound instruction to the same extent as students with other medical conditions; namely, for as long as it is medically necessary for them to be absent. Read more »
Today, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) filed a complaint against Georgia’s Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School (WWCHS) and Wilkes County Schools for violating Title IX, the federal civil rights law that protects students from sex discrimination, including pregnancy discrimination. The complaint alleges that WWCHS is violating Title IX in a number of ways, such as excluding pregnant students from receiving homebound instruction services made available to students with other medical conditions, and refusing to excuse pregnancy-related absences.
The complaint, filed with the U.S. Department of Education’s regional Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta, details the discrimination experienced by Mikelia Seals, a WWCHS student who was pregnant during the 2013-2014 school year. Mikelia was seven months pregnant when her doctor told her she needed to go on bed rest because she was at risk of premature delivery. Mikelia and her mother then asked Mikelia’s guidance counselor for homebound instruction. The guidance counselor told Mikelia that WWCHS doesn’t provide homebound instruction services (not true). So Mikelia did the best she could with the work she got from her individual teachers – that is, until the principal told her she would not get any credit for that work or for the semester because she had exceeded the allowable number of unexcused absences. She never had the chance to finish the semester and never received a report card. The new school year starts in a couple of weeks and she is worried that she will not be able to graduate in Spring 2015 as scheduled. She hopes to go to nursing school after she graduates. Read more »
On July 1, 2014, Delaware released a proposed update to its regulations regarding homebound instruction, and although it looks like a small change, it’s an important one, folks. Until now, Delaware’s regulations surrounding homebound instruction barred students with “normal” pregnancies from accessing homebound instruction services. Students with pregnancy complications (or, I suppose, “non-normal” pregnancies, though in my mind I still can’t figure out what “normal" means) were only able to access homebound instruction for six weeks, even though such a limit didn’t apply to any other students using homebound instruction.
Happily, once Delaware understood that their regulations violated Title IX and made it harder for pregnant students to continue their schoolwork, they worked quickly to change their regulations. The National Women’s Law Center brought the problem to the attention of the Delaware Department of Education and advocated that the policy be fixed; the proposed changes are necessary for Delaware to comply with Title IX. Read more »
Contrary to stereotypes and other negative messages that are so popular with mainstream media, parenthood does not have to be the end of the road for young mamas. Instead, motherhood often motivates and empowers young women to focus on succeeding so they can best provide for themselves and their children. Unfortunately, too often this sense of drive and determination is halted in the face of discrimination and shame. At the National Women’s Law Center, we frequently hear from young moms who face obstacles to staying in school because of their schools’ rigid policies, many of which are illegal under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the federal civil rights law that bans sex discrimination in education – including pregnancy discrimination.
Moms like Brandi Kostal.
A student at Logan College in St. Louis, Brandi had an emergency C-section towards the end of her spring term. Her school only excused absences for jury duty or military service, and for many classes, missing only a few sessions would qualify her for “attendance failure.” Faced with ruining her academic record and not being able to graduate on time, Brandi returned to classes just 11 days after her emergency C-section. Read more »
All too often pregnant students are treated differently than other students and pushed out of school because of their pregnancies. Under Title IX, this is illegal. Title IX protects against sex discrimination in education, and pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination. The law requires that schools give all students who might be, are, or have been pregnant the same access to school programs and extracurricular activities that other students have.
In June, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released guidance to all federally funded education programs on the Title IX rights of pregnant and parenting students. The guidance made clear that schools cannot discriminate against students on the basis of pregnancy. Read more »
If you’re a student who is or may be pregnant, a student who is parenting, or a parent thinking about going back to school to further your education, here’s my holiday gift to you. I hope you can use it!
First off, know your rights as a student under Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. At stake is your life and well-being and that of your children, so don’t just take Professor So-and-So’s word for it if you are told you should drop out of the program, switch programs, skip a semester, or accept failure. Brandi Kostal at Logan University in St. Louis and Stephanie Stewart at one of the City University of New York’s many community colleges did not take it when their respective universities would not excuse their pregnancy-related absences nor allow them to make up work they missed. Instead, they sought help and made noise. NWLC filed complaints on behalf of both Brandi and Stephanie and secured settlements – one just last week – in which their colleges agreed to take important steps to prevent and address such discrimination, including adopting new policies regarding the treatment of pregnant and parenting students.
So sure, your professor gave you a syllabus at the beginning of the semester. And maybe it said that you can’t miss a certain number of classes without failing the course. But Title IX says that your school must excuse your absences due to pregnancy or related conditions, including childbirth and recovery, for as long as your doctor says it’s medically necessary. It’s important to know your rights! Read more »
In July, the National Women’s Law Center (and co-counsel B. Lane Hasler) filed a Title IX complaint against Logan College of Chiropractic University Programs in St. Louis for maintaining an attendance policy that treats pregnancy-related absences as unexcused and for discriminating against pregnant student Brandi Kostal. Today, we settled the case, with Logan agreeing to take important steps to ensure that this type of discrimination does not happen again.
Title IX protects against sex discrimination in education, and pregnancy discrimination is sex discrimination. The law guarantees that schools must give all students who might be, are, or have been pregnant the same access to school programs and extracurricular activities that other students have. This means that schools must excuse absences for as long as the student’s doctor says is necessary, and must let the student make up the work missed while out. These rules apply to all schools that receive federal funds—including colleges whose students get federal financial aid. In June, the Department of Education issued guidance on Title IX’s application to schools’ treatment of pregnant and parenting students, which reaffirmed that students who miss classes, clinic hours, or any other educational programs due to pregnancy and related conditions cannot be penalized and must be given the opportunity to make up work they miss. The law is clear, but many schools do not adopt policies or practices consistent with their obligations under Title IX. Read more »
When it comes to protecting the rights of pregnant and parenting students, the National Women’s Law Center’s work is never done. It was not too long ago that we settled a complaint against the CUNY system in New York City on behalf of Stephanie Stewart, whose professor did not excuse her pregnancy-related absences. Today, we are filing another complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, this time on behalf of Brandi Kostal, a student in a joint Masters of Science in Nutrition and Doctorate of Chiropractic program at Logan College of Chiropractic in St. Louis.
When Brandi had an emergency c-section in the middle of last term, one of her top concerns was finishing her courses so she could stay on track and graduate on time. But Logan College’s absence policy is incredibly strict: absences are only excused for jury duty or military service, and for many classes, missing just 2 sessions would push her into “attendance failure.” Brandi was doing well in her doctorate classes and did not want to withdraw or be penalized for her absences, which were the only options she was given. So she returned to her hectic class schedule just 11 days after her complicated surgery. She was in great pain, could not take her pain medications so she could drive, and had to stop breastfeeding her 11-day old infant. Read more »
It has been 40 years since the passage of Title IX and 22 years since the Department of Education last released guidance related to pregnant and parenting students. While pregnant and parenting students are protected by the non-discrimination provisions of Title IX, many students and school administrators need a strong reminder of what is required by Title IX. Read more »