Title IX saves lives

Learning to Care

As a student-athlete in college, I had heard about Title IX ever so briefly during our team orientations. We were lectured on gender equity in sports and informed that our women’s teams would be just as well supported as our male counterparts. There was probably a Q&A segment, and maybe we had to fill out papers to sign acknowledging our awareness of this information. Other than that, it wasn’t a big deal. I might have also heard about Title IX in history class or in passing references to sexual harassment and assault on campus, but for the most part, I was in the dark. For all I cared, Title IX was 5 letters and 2 Roman numerals.

I find that this is the case with most students. If you aren’t personally experiencing discrimination on campus or in a position to need these types of resources, you aren’t likely to have sought out this information or learned it in earnest. Many times, we don’t bother learning critical information, like Title IX rights and accommodations or even our local pregnancy support resources, until we need it (for ourselves or a classmate asking for help). We assume that we’ll be able to access all this information when the time comes.

And while this is true in many cases, it’s not the best approach! Delays in providing information can cause more distress for your pregnant and parenting peers. As a student leader on campus (especially one who advocates for pregnant and parenting students), you need to take the time to research this information, compile it in one place, and discuss it with your group so that you are prepared to respond promptly and effectively to the concerns and needs of your peers.

Why It Matters

Title IX provides protections and accommodations for pregnant and parenting students at schools which receive federal funding. Therefore, it can be a great tool to ensure that pregnant and parenting students stay in school and receive fair accommodations and support. Unfortunately, most students don’t know that these protections and accommodations are available. This can lead to students making devastating choices (e.g. dropping out of school or getting an abortion). Lack of information can also prevent a student from asserting her rights when she is being discriminated against or not adequate support.

Over the past 3 years, our Students for Life of America staff has noted that Title IX information is one of the top resources that pregnant and parenting students request. Simple, articulate explanations of this information has yielded some amazing results! Here are some of the situations we have witnessed over the years:

After learning about Title IX …

  • Pregnant students are better able to communicate their situation, their rights, and their needs to their professors and administrations.
  • Students have been able to resolve issues of grades and class credits that resulted from improper handlings of pregnancy-related absences (e.g. missed classwork during childbirth and recovery).
  • Pregnant students have been able to stay on their sports teams and in their special programs (e.g. honors classes) without penalty or loss of scholarship.
  • Parenting students have been able to defend their right to breastfeed their babies on campus.

This past week, we had the opportunity to work with a parenting student (Ruth) at Pikes Peak Community College to resolve her financial aid situation. Ruth was told that she would lose financial aid after having not completed enough class credits in the past semester. However, Ruth had never received Title IX information or additional support to complete those classes. Thanks to some quick teamwork, we were able to explain how to address this situation with the school’s Title IX Coordinator and what information to present. It was a success!

Lives Saved

What’s more, Title IX has saved lives. About two weeks ago, our West Coast Regional Director, Reagan Barklage, was contacted by the Executive Director of a pregnancy resource center. The Executive Director had a client who was a student-athlete. The young girl considered aborting her baby because she was afraid that she would lose her basketball scholarship and have to drop off the team.

Thankfully, our Pregnant on Campus Initiative is prepared to handle these situations. Reagan and I worked together to get Title IX and NCAA student-athlete information sent to the Executive Director. After explaining this Title IX information, this brave student-athlete chose life!

What You Can Do

We want you to be able to effectively support your pregnant and parenting peers on campus. Contact our team for such resources as:

  • Title IX student group training
  • Title IX flyers and social media graphics
  • Ideas for how to advertise and share this information
  • Assistance in dealing with a Title IX pregnancy or parenting situation on your campus

Learn more about Title IX here: www.PregnantOnCampus.org/Students-Rights

 

This post was contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Director. To share your story or your group’s successes on campus, email Beth at brahal@studentsforlife.org.

Brooke Foster: Athlete, Student, Mom

Photo Credit: Graham Hayes, ESPN

Photo Credit: Graham Hayes, ESPN

24-year-old North Texas shortstop Brooke Foster isn’t just an athlete. She’s a competitor. She has worked hard to claim her prowess on the field. North Texas coach Tracey Kee said, “It’s not until you get out here on a daily basis and see what the kid does. She just plays the game flat out… she’s just constantly a true competitor. She doesn’t take a day for granted. … She is our little engine at the front of the lineup that can drop a bunt or drive it out of the ballpark.” In a recent game at Oklahoma State, Brooke hit .354 with a .677 slugging percentage. Not too shabby for an athlete who took 2 years off from the game.

On the surface, Brooke Foster appears to be just another great player on the field. However, Brooke’s story is different from many athletes. Unlike other athletes, those 2 years were not spent redshirted recovering from a persistent injury or surgery.

Brooke Foster is a mom.

A high school standout, Brooke earned a softball scholarship to Houston Baptist University. In her freshman year, she discovered that she was pregnant. She dropped out of college, moved back to Wylie. Brooke assumed a full-time positioned at a local pharmacy in order to pay for her medical expenses. Through those months of pregnancy, Brooke and her family struggled to accept the challenges to their expectations and the stigma of unplanned pregnancy. She admits to feeling embarrassed and even ashamed at her situation.

On Aug. 21, 2009, baby Layton entered the world. While there remained challenges to embrace her new life, Brooke was fiercely determined to be a good mom. Looking back on that time, Brooke stated, “I was determined that [Layton] was going to be mine, and I was going to be able to raise him and I was going to be so happy. I was just so defensive over him. And I still am. Any time anyone tries to say anything, I’m like, ‘You know what, I have been to hell and back so many times for this little boy to be here.”

After watching the Women’s College World Series on television, Brook was inspired to continue her pursuit of a college education. She joined the North Texas softball team as a walk-on and continued her education. Since joining the team, the 24-year-old senior has stood out for her talent on the softball field and her commitment to motherhood. Currently, Brook is the record holder for career stolen bases, and she is closing in on hitting records as well.

This year, Brook will also be the first of her family to graduate from college. Pursuing her college education and reclaiming her athleticism had trials. However, Brook has overcome the fears of the past and regained her confidence.

“I will never let anybody tell me that I can’t do anything because not one person told me I could do this, and I’m doing it. I think [Layton] is going to be proud of me.”

Reporter Graham Hays sums up Brooke’s story beautifully. “Brooke could easily have become a cautionary tale, the uber-talented athlete whose unplanned pregnancy led her to drop out of school and drift away from a future once seemingly in focus. All of that happened, and left her on a precipice. Hers isn’t a path even she would wish to tread again, not through times both dark and lonely. But Brooke came all the way back. Not to reclaim that which she lost, but to protect what she gained the best way she knew how. Really, the only way she knew how: with a bat and a glove.”

 

Brooke Foster- ESPN

Photo Credit: Graham Hayes, ESPN

 

This post was contributed by Beth O’Malley, Pregnant on Campus Coordinator. All images are credited to Graham Hayes, ESPN. If you would like to submit your story, please email Beth at bomalley@studentsforlife.org.