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Pregnant and Parenting Students

Speak Spanish? Title IX Rights for Pregnant and Parenting Students Translated

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 »

Pregnant or Parenting Student Moms, This is for You!

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 »

Logan Adopts New Title IX Policy—Other Colleges, Take Note

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 »

Schools Behaving Badly: More Pregnancy Discrimination Brings New NWLC Complaint

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 »

Accolades: Department of Education Releases New Guidance for Pregnant and Parenting Students

Pregnant and parenting students

Schools around the country are gearing up for summer vacation, and — just in time to make all of your summer reading lists — the Department of Education has issued new Title IX guidance for school administrators, teachers and counselors: Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

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 »

Supporting Teens with Big Dreams: Title IX and the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act

"I graduated high school because of my son," said Amber Anderson this morning, describing how giving birth to a child during her sophomore year of high school motivated her to take her education seriously and get on track to graduate. 

Although the most common social narrative is that when a high school student gets pregnant, her life is over (which people tend to apply to high school moms but not necessarily high school dads, I might add), stories from students like Amber turn the stereotype on its head. As she and other young mothers shared at today's Hill briefing, sponsored by the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education, teen parents can and do succeed — especially with a little support. Each young woman agreed that having a child pushed them to finish high school. 

The briefing, held in honor of the 41st anniversary of Title IX, was called "Title IX, Pregnant and Parenting Students, and ESEA: Supporting Young Parents to Achieve Their Educational Goals." It brought together teen parents, advocates, and service providers to explore the promise of Title IX's protections for pregnant and parenting students and to explain the implications of the currently pending Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act ("PPSAE Act"). Read more »

NWLC Supports New School Reform Bill and Urges Senate Committee to Strengthen It

Last week, Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, introduced the Strengthening America’s Schools Act of 2013, a bill to reauthorize (fancy word for “update and fix”) the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), also known as No Child Left Behind.

The “mark-up” of the bill—when the HELP Committee votes on amendments and hopefully sends the bill to the full Senate—starts tomorrow.

The National Women’s Law Center supports this bill, and urges the Senate HELP Committee to further strengthen it during tomorrow’s mark-up. Read more »

Teen Mom Proves we Need the PPSAE Now More than Ever

My senior year of college, two of my roommates and I watched Teen Mom CONSTANTLY. I liked to pretend I wasn’t watching it, but the conversation usually went something like this:

Becka (standing in doorway): “Oh jeez, guys. You’re watching this?”

Arielle: “Yes. Absolutely.”

[10 minutes later]

Rachel: “…Do you want to sit down?”

Becka (still standing in doorway): “…..Yes. FARRAH’S CRYING FACE IS CRAZY.”

When you watch the show, the difficulties of teen parents and pregnant students become painfully clear. Recently, I was re-watching Season 1 on Netflix Instant, and it clicked – wow. The Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education Act would REALLY help these girls.

Title IX already affords a number of protections to pregnant & parenting students. This law requires that schools receiving federal funds not discriminate against students on the basis of sex, which includes pregnancy and related conditions like childbirth, pregnancy termination, and recovery. This prohibition against discrimination comes in a number of forms – for example, students must not be forced to attend a different program or school than their peers, must be given the opportunity to make up missed work for pregnancy-related absences, must be treated the same as if they had a temporary disability, and may not be excluded from sports or extracurricular activities.

The Pregnant and Parenting Student Access to Education Act (PPSAE) is designed to go beyond nondiscrimination by giving students the tools they need to succeed. It would enable school districts to – among other things – create graduation plans for pregnant and parenting students; provide academic support, parenting and life skills classes, strategies to prevent future unplanned pregnancies, and legal aid services; help pregnant and parenting students gain access to affordable child care, and revise school policies and practices to remove discouraging barriers. Pretty great, huh? Read more »

Seriously??? Teen Mom’s Photo Excluded from Yearbook

Just when I thought I had seen it all, and right on the heels of our announcement two days ago of a great Title IX pregnancy discrimination settlement with the City University of New York, my colleague forwards me this article and video from HuffPo. Apparently last summer a North Carolina high school allowed its rising seniors to pose for senior photos with props that represented their achievements, who they are, what they like, etc. Some students posed with footballs, some even posed with their family pets, and teen mom Caitlin Tiller posed with her baby. Touchingly, Caitlin explains that her son “helped me get to where I am today.” She said that after giving birth she started to work harder in school – she even graduated early, began college classes in January and got a part-time job working 30 hours a week. She added: “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without him.”

Still, a month ago school officials told Caitlin that they would not print the photo of her with her baby. They said the baby should not be pictured because he is not “school related.” Boy, would I love to hear them explain how a family pet is “school related.” Read more »

Stephanie Stewart, My Hero!

A few months ago, my employer, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), filed an administrative complaint against the City University of New York (CUNY) for violating Title IX by discriminating against a pregnant student, and just this morning we settled the case with CUNY, which has agreed to take some important steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

Stephanie Stewart

Stephanie Stewart

A little background: Stephanie Stewart, a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC), was pregnant at the start of the Spring 2012 semester. Because BMCC, like the vast majority of colleges and universities, receives federal funding, it is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of sex by Title IX. Unfortunately, BMCC left it up to instructors to determine their own policies for absences and make-up work and didn’t explain that pregnancy-related absences must be excused.

Stephanie’s professor in her anthropology course called “Roles of Women” refused to accede to Stephanie’s request that, if she had to miss class to attend a pregnancy-related medical appointment or to deliver her baby, she be allowed to make up the work she missed. The professor told Stephanie that she doesn’t allow make-up tests or assignments, even in cases of unforeseen emergencies – including Stephanie’s pregnancy, and refused to grade homework turned in via email when Stephanie had to attend a doctor’s appointment.

Stephanie didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. She brought her case to the attention of NWLC and helped score a BIG-TIME victory for all CUNY students. As a result of the settlement, CUNY will adopt a policy regarding the treatment of pregnant and parenting students, making it clear that absences for conditions relating to pregnancy are excused and students will be allowed to make up missed work. Read more »