Pregnant and Parenting College Students’ Rights
Title IX Requirements Regarding Pregnant and Parenting Students
Title IX provides that:
No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.
Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions
Under Title IX, it is illegal for colleges to exclude a pregnant student from participating in any part of an educational program. This prohibition applies to specific classes such as advanced placement or honors classes, extracurricular programs, interscholastic sports, honor societies, and opportunities for student leadership, among other activities.
In addition, a college must excuse a student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth for as long as the student’s doctor deems the absences medically necessary. When a student returns to school, she must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before her medical leave began.
A college may require a pregnant student or student who has given birth to submit medical certification for school participation only if the college also requires such certification from all students with physical or emotional conditions requiring the attention of a physician. Thus, for example, a student who has been hospitalized for childbirth must not be required to submit a medical certificate to return to school if a certificate is not required of students who have been hospitalized for other conditions. Requests for medical certification from pregnant or parenting BHCC students may only be made by the Health Services Office, in consultation with the Title IX Coordinator.
Frequently Asked Questions Pertaining to Title IX Requirements Regarding Pregnant and Parenting Students
May a college require a pregnant student to participate in a separate program for pregnant students?
No. Any such requirement would violate Title IX. A college may offer separate programs or schools for a pregnant student, but participation in those programs or schools must be completely voluntary. A college may provide information to its students about the availability of an alternative program, but it may not pressure a pregnant student to attend that program. A pregnant student must be allowed to remain in her regular classes and programs if she so chooses.
May a college require a pregnant student to obtain a doctor’s permission before allowing her to attend school late in her pregnancy if the college is worried about the student’s health or safety?
Colleges cannot require a pregnant student to produce a doctor’s note in order to stay in school or participate in activities, including interscholastic sports, unless the same requirement to obtain a doctor’s note applies to all students being treated by a doctor. That is, colleges cannot treat a pregnant student differently from other students being cared for by a doctor, even when a student is in the later stages of pregnancy; colleges should not presume that a pregnant student is unable to attend school or participate in school activities.
What types of assistance must a college provide to a pregnant student at school?
To ensure a pregnant student’s access to its educational program, when necessary, a college must make adjustments to the regular program that are reasonable and responsive to the student’s temporary pregnancy status. For example, a college might be required to provide a larger desk, allow frequent trips to the bathroom, or permit temporary access to elevators.
In addition to allowing a pregnant student to attend classes, does a college need to allow her to participate in school clubs, class activities, interscholastic sports, and other school-sponsored organizations?
Yes. Title IX prohibits a college from excluding a pregnant student from any part of its educational program, including all extracurricular activities, such as school clubs, academic societies, honors programs, homecoming court, or interscholastic sports. A pregnant student must also be eligible to hold leadership positions in these activities. In addition, a pregnant student may not be excluded from an activity that is part of the college’s educational program even if the activity is not operated directly by the school. For example, an after-school program run by a local nonprofit agency that rents the school’s facilities at a reduced rate and is advertised and promoted by the school may not exclude a pregnant student from enrolling.
Does a college have to excuse a student’s absences due to pregnancy or childbirth?
Yes. Title IX requires a college to excuse a student’s absences due to pregnancy or related conditions, including recovery from childbirth, for as long as the student’s doctor deems the absences to be medically necessary. When the student returns to school, she must be reinstated to the status she held when the leave began, which should include giving her the opportunity to make up any work missed. A college may offer the student alternatives to making up missed work, such as retaking a semester, taking part in an online course credit recovery program, or allowing the student additional time in a program to continue at the same pace and finish at a later date, especially after longer periods of leave. The student should be allowed to choose how to make up the work.
If the college requires students with other medical conditions to submit a doctor’s note, it may require the same from a pregnant student.
For further information, contact the College’s Affirmative Action and Title IX Coordinator, Thomas L. Saltonstall, 250 New Rutherford Avenue, Room E-236F (inside the International Center), by calling 617-228-3311 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adapted from Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.