We know that young parents are motivated to focus on their education. Unfortunately, we also know there there are existing barriers that make it challenging for expectant and parenting students to stay in school. In some cases, schools intentionally punish female students for their pregnancies, ban them from participating in school activities, and in other cases, expel them from their schools.
Fortunately, districts across the United States have created and implemented policies that would protect expectant and parenting students from discrimination and mistreatment in school.
- Boston Public Schools implemented the Expectant and Parenting Student Policy
- Sacramento State implemented the Pregnant and Parenting Student Policy
- The ACLU of Northern California made state and district-level recommendations for an Expectant and Parenting Student Policy in California
Additionally, Federal law Title IX protects and guarantees expectant and parenting students equal access to education. The law is often linked in the media to sports and sexual harassment, but it does also protect young parents from being harassed, suspended, or expelled for their sexual and reproductive choices.
This means, under Title IX, expectant and parenting students cannot be forced into separate programs and schools must excuse absences related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Title IX Basic Rights
- You must have equal access to classes and activities. If your school has special services for students with temporary medical conditions, they have to offer the same services to expectant students.
- Your school must excuse your absences due to pregnancy or childbirth for as long as your doctor says is necessary. Schools must reschedule exams missed due to pregnancy or childbirth. When you return, your school must allow you to return to the same academic and extracurricular status you had before you left. The school must also give you a chance to make up missed work.
- Your school cannot make you to take time off if you don’t want to.
- Your school cannot exclude you from a special program because you are expectant or a parent.
- If your school has a program or activity for students who are expectant or parents, you get to decide if you want to take part in them. Your school cannot make you attend if you do not want to.
- Your school can make you turn in medical records only if they make students with medical conditions do the same. If they do not make students with other medical conditions submit medical papers to take part in a class or activity, then it is illegal to make expectant students do so.
- You can take part in activities for as long as you want. Your school cannot stop you from joining clubs, going to events, or participating in research, unless the school has the same rules for all students who have a condition needing medical attention.
- Your school cannot make you change your major or degree program because you are expectant or a parent. They cannot force you to attend an alternate program, like an evening program.
- If a teacher or professor doesn’t want you in class because you’re expectant, tell a school official ASAP. You have a right to take whatever course you want if you meet course prerequisites. The school official should monitor the class and make sure the professor does not show bias in grading. Stick with it so you can graduate and reach your goals!
- If students with temporary medical conditions get online classes or tutoring, students who miss class because of pregnancy or childbirth should get the same.
Young Parent Perspectives
Family leave laws need to include parenting students by Gloria Malone
Faces of Title IX: Lisette Orellana by Lisette Orellana
Guide: Know Your Rights: Title IX protects you from discrimination at school by the US Department of Education
Report: Stopping School Pushout for: Girls Who Are Pregnant or Parenting by National Women's Law Center
FAQ: Pregnant and Parenting College & Graduate Students Rights by National Women's Law Center
Guide: How to file an OCR complaint if you're Title IX rights are violated by National Women's Law Center