Prior to 1972, most schools across the U.S. had little or no policies in place regarding the rights of pregnant and parenting students on campus. There were no guidelines that help to regulate how many credit hours pregnant or parenting students are able to miss, help secure scholarships awarded to students who later become pregnant, or allow pregnant and parenting students to make up coursework they may have missed, for instance. However, in 1972, Title IX was passed to help curtail sex discrimination; thankfully, a margin of this legislation is allotted to help curtail discrimination against pregnant women.
Title IX ensures that any school (e.g. high school) or university that receives federal funding cannot discriminate against students who are pregnant and/or parenting. This means that all schools must give pregnant and parenting students the same access to school programs and educational opportunities that are available to other students and that professors and administrators cannot influence pregnant or parenting students to alter their educational plans due to their added responsibilities.
- See list of EXEMPT schools here
- College Students: The Basics
- Parenting Students
- High School Students
- Pregnant Student-Athletes
- Comprehensive Title IX Resources
- Campus Activism
- Universities that receive federal funding must give pregnant and parenting students the same access to school programs and educational opportunities that other students have.
- If a student misses class due to pregnancy, childbirth, or other related conditions, the school must allow the student to make up the missed work and provide the appropriate information to complete assignments.
- If a doctor has deemed a student’s pregnancy-related absence as medically necessary (such as in the cases of bed rest, childbirth, or recovery), that student cannot be punished for missing class or another school activity (e.g. lose points for class attendance) regardless of the school’s or professor’s classroom absence policies.
- If a student misses class due to pregnancy and the professor gave out class points or extra credit, the professor must provide similar opportunities to the pregnant student.
- Pregnant students must be provided with any special services that are also provided to students with temporary disabilities (such as at-home tutoring).
- If a student becomes pregnant and chooses to stay in school, the school cannot use the student’s pregnancy as a reason to terminate or reduce that student’s athletic, merit, or need-based scholarships.
- A pregnant student cannot be kicked out of campus housing while she is pregnant. She is allowed to remain in her current housing situation for the duration of her pregnancy (after which she may be asked to move to family-friendly housing).
Unfortunately, Title IX has very little specific guidelines for parenting students. Primarily, it protects parenting students from discrimination in educational access. Such items may include:
- Parenting students cannot be denied ability to apply for an educational program, financial aid, or scholarships that they would otherwise be eligible.
- Instructors cannot penalize a student because of his or her parenting status.
- Special programs (e.g. study abroad, sports teams, clubs) cannot deny a parenting student for reason of his or her parenting status.
Some schools do have policies regarding parenting students receiving an excused absence for emergency child care (e.g. sick child), and some schools provide a student parental leave policy (e.g. after childbirth).
Improvements can certainly be made to ensure better treatment and reasonable accommodations for parenting students. If you have a concern regarding conflicts with your parenting responsibilities and your classroom participation, talk to your professors, academic advisor, or other school admin/staff about these concerns.
Yes! High school pregnant and parenting students are protected by Title IX. Here are some items that you should know if your school abides by Title IX (e.g. public schools):
- Teachers, administrators, and counselors cannot discourage your academic participation and advancement.
- Examples: They can’t tell you that you need to drop out of school. They can’t tell you that you can’t go to college or that you will never succeed. They can’t discourage you from looking at college programs or applying.
- You cannot be kicked out of your school or your academic programs for reason of pregnancy or parenting status.
- You cannot be forced to enter into a separate program for pregnant or parenting students. It must be voluntary. Such programs must also be comparable in academic rigor and resources.
- You are allowed medically necessary absences from the classroom.
- Examples: You are excused for childbirth and recovery. You are allowed to take breaks from class for lactation (i.e. to breastfeed or breast pump).
Student-athletes may continue participating in their sport as a pregnant and/or parenting student, or apply for a red shirt season (if pregnant). “Student-athletes cannot be discriminated against in the event of their pregnancy, childbirth, conditions related to pregnancy, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery there from, or parental or marital status; and they must be offered reinstatement to the same position after pregnancy as they held before the onset of pregnancy.”
- Read more here: Pregnant Athletes
For a comprehensive review of Title IX pregnancy and parenting protections and accommodations (for students, postdocs, faculty, and administration), please see ThePregnantScholar.org.
- Title IX Basics
- Helpful Handouts
- Model Campus Policy
- Pregnancy Conditions and Accommodations
- Parental Leave
- Family Responsibilities Discrimination
Resources to Read and Distribute
There are great fact sheets on the rights of pregnant and parenting students established within Title IX from the Center for Policy and Assessment Development that you can check out here: Pregnant and Parenting Student Rights and Pregnant and Parenting Students Rights for Teens. Feminists for Life has also put out a model policy here for your campus here.
Title IX Handouts and Documents:
- The Pregnant Scholar: Helpful Handouts
- A Guide for College & Graduate Students
- A Guide for Schools
- A Guide for High School Students
- Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education (H.R.2617)
- Know Your Rights (U.S. Department of Education)
- NCAA Pregnancy Toolkit: Pregnant and Parenting Student-Athletes Resources and Model Policies
Use these flyers and social media images to spread this information on campus and online! Try our “Title IX True or False” activity as an interactive engagement tool at your next tabling event.