When I discovered I was pregnant during my spring semester and that my due date would fall in the tail end of my fall semester, I didn’t know what to do. Do I sit out a semester and just take care of the baby? Do I attend classes anyway and just cross my fingers that, I dunno, I give birth over a long weekend? What was the proper thing to do?
I tell this story often and whenever I’m in a group of parenting students, they nod their head and tell me they struggled with the same decision. But it’s hard to make the decision that is best for you if you don’t have all the information, and I’m willing to bet the vast majority of pregnant college students don’t know about the federal legislation that is Title IX.
In short, Title IX prevents your school from kicking you out, treating you unfairly or otherwise stigmatizing you for being a parent. Let’s take a deeper dive:
According to the National Women’s Law Center (a great resource for all things Title IX):
Does my school have to excuse my absences due to pregnancy, childbirth or abortion?
Your school must excuse your absences due to pregnancy or any related conditions for as long as your doctor says it is necessary for you to be absent. This is true even if there is no leave policy for students with other conditions. When you return to school, you must be reinstated to the status you held before your leave. The school can require you to submit a doctor’s note from you only if that is required of students with other medical conditions.
My professor adjusts grades based on class attendance. Can she lower my grade because of the classes I miss?
You cannot be penalized for pregnancy or related conditions. If a professor provides specific “points” or other advantages to students based on class attendance, you must be given the opportunity to earn back the credit from classes you miss due to pregnancy, so that you can be reinstated to the status you held before you took leave.
Does my school have to let me make up the work I missed while I was absent?
Yes, your school must let you make up the work you missed while you were out due to pregnancy or any related conditions, including recovery from childbirth. For example, if you have a doctor’s note that excuses you from class for several weeks because you were on “bed rest” before giving birth, your school has to provide you with the appropriate assignments and information to make up all of the work you would have been required to complete while you were out. For an extended absence, it is best if your school provides you with the work you miss regularly, so you do not fall far behind.
But what if my school says that absence/make-up work policies are up to each individual professor?
While that may be the school’s practice, the school administration and professors are bound by federal civil rights law. Title IX requires that schools ensure that all faculty and staff comply with the law and do not discriminate against pregnant and parenting students. An individual professor’s policy is not okay if it breaks the law.
Does my school have to provide special academic services to me, like tutoring?
Title IX requires that schools provide pregnant students with any special services they provide to students with temporary disabilities. If students with temporary disabilities get at-home tutoring to help them keep up with work they miss when absent, the school must provide students who miss class because of pregnancy or childbirth with the same benefit.
For students in high school, the same laws/rules apply. Schools can not force you to go to an “alternate” high school and they must allow you to make up any work you missed due to pregnancy or childbirth.