Know Your Rights: How Title IX Protects Pregnant and Parenting Students

Being a college student is no simple job.

Yes, I said job. As a student, you’re doing important work that’s opening up so many possibilities for you. Your studies have the potential to transform lives all around the world! And for 4.8 million college undergraduate students, sometimes changing the world involves parenting a child. That’s right, there are 4.8 million undergrads raising kids, and 3.4 million of those students are women. So if you’re a pregnant or parenting student, know that you are far from alone!

You should also know that you have rights. Title IX protects pregnant and parenting students, providing them with pivotal rights that allow these women and men to thrive in their roles as academics and parents. Let’s do a little myth-busting to find out more about your rights to succeed in school and achieve your goals:

Myth: My school could force me to change academic programs or drop out of school because of my pregnancy.

Fact: Schools must give all students the same access to educational programs. Your teachers and administrators can’t make you drop out or switch programs if you’re pregnant or parenting. They have to allow you the opportunity to make up missed assignments, assessments, or attendance points.

Myth: My absences from class because of doctors appointments or other pregnancy-related events aren’t excused, and my teachers can dock points off my grades for these absences.

Fact: Your school has to excuse these absences. They have to allow you the opportunity to make up missed assignments, assessments, or attendance points. Under Title IX, professors and other school faculty cannot penalize you for your pregnancy or pregnancy-related medical issues. Even if a school allows professors to control makeup work/attendance policies, federal civil rights overrides these policies. They may require you to have a doctor’s note, but only if school policy applies that requirement to other medical conditions.

Myth: My scholarships can be taken away because of my pregnancy.

Fact: You cannot lose your scholarships just because you’re pregnant. As long as you stay in school, any merit, athletic, or needs-based scholarships cannot be taken from you. Your pregnancy doesn’t undo any of your past achievements or financial needs, and Title IX requires schools to respect that.

Myth: If my professors or classmates harass me or make offensive comments to me about my pregnancy, there’s nothing I can do about it.

Fact: No one has the right to harass you, and you do have the right to be heard. Title IX requires schools to prevent sex-based harassment, including harassment about pregnancy. If you receive any treatment like this, talk to your school’s Title IX coordinator. No one can penalize you for filing that complaint.

Myth: My school doesn’t have to make any accommodations for me like extra bathroom breaks or breastfeeding breaks.

Fact: Your school must provide elevator access, a larger desk, frequent bathroom and breastfeeding breaks. If you have any pregnancy-related medical issues, such as morning sickness, gestational diabetes, severe pelvic or back pain, or carpal tunnel, you have the right to certain accommodations to meet your needs. For instance, if you can’t move heavy lab equipment or carry your books, the school should provide people to assist you. If you have pregnancy-related carpal tunnel, you can have someone write your class notes for you.

Myth: My coach can kick me off the team because I’m pregnant or parenting.

Fact: By law, your team cannot discriminate against you because of your pregnancy or parental status. You can continue to participate as long as your doctor recommends it and you feel comfortable with playing. The NCAA allows a special “red shirt season” for pregnant athletes, which means you are still on the team and the roster, but are excused from playing due to medical needs. Title IX enforces that a schools must treat a pregnant athlete like an athlete with any other medical condition.

Myth: There’s no way I can be a student while pregnant or parenting.

Fact: YOU CAN DO THIS! Like we talked about earlier, millions of people are doing this right now and millions upon millions have done it before you. There are so many amazing opportunities ahead of you, and being pregnant or a parent doesn’t change that. Find out more about your rights here (link to Pregnant on Campus?).

If you’re an expecting or new parent, help is here for you.

Not only at your school, but from us at Lifeline. We’d love to talk more with you about your rights as well as provide you with pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, prenatal/parenting education, counseling, baby supplies, and more. All of our services are confidential and offered at no cost. If you need a cheerleader, we’ve got a whole squad waiting for you at the clinic. Really, you can do this.

Resources:

National Women’s Law Center

Pregnant On Campus Initiative

The Pregnant Scholar

 

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