April 19, 2024

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Millions of Pregnant and Parenting Students Gain Protections
New Title IX Regulations Will Keep Pregnant and Parenting Students in School

Today the U.S. Department of Education formally adopted their long-anticipated regulations implementing Title IX, the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. The Pregnant Scholar, based at UC Law SF’s Center for WorkLife Law, applauds the Department for providing a strong interpretation of the law that both protects millions of pregnant and parenting students and provides clear guidance for educational institutions.

“No student should be forced to give up their education because of their pregnancy or child, but that’s exactly what was happening under the old Title IX rules,” said Jessica Lee, Pregnant Scholar Director. “The new Title IX regulations go a long way toward moving that practice into the history books.”

In particular, we’re thrilled to see the new regulations:

    • Include a clear requirement for academic institutions to provide pregnant and postpartum students with medically-necessary leave, reasonable accommodations, and lactation space.
    • Clarify who is responsible for ensuring students get the reasonable academic adjustments, leave, and anti-discrimination protections they need to thrive. And, require staff to notify students of where they can find help.
    • Continue to ban discrimination based on pregnancy-related conditions including abortion and miscarriage, and newly define ‘parental status’ in a way that reflects the diversity of student parent families.
    • Offer privacy protections–a particularly important safeguard post-Dobbs.

While the previous Title IX rules prohibited discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, abortion, miscarriage, and other conditions, they did not clearly cover all conditions or give much guidance on how schools and colleges should get the job done. “Under the old rules, students regularly called our helpline because they were kicked out for missing a couple classes to attend doctor’s appointments, told they’re no longer welcome in school, or forced to sacrifice their safety during pregnancy or postpartum,” said Director Jessica Lee. “The Department of Education’s new Title IX rules will safely keep students in school, and their families and communities will benefit as a result.”

Millions of college and university students are parents, including more than 1 in 5 undergraduates, and 1 in 3 graduate students. And hundreds of thousands of students become pregnant each year. These students are disporportionately women and students of color. Despite making up a significant portion of the student population, educational institutions often fail to meet pregnant and parenting students’ needs and protect them from discrimination.

WorkLife Law’s Pregnant Scholar helpline has worked to support hundreds of students who were denied pregnancy accommodations, leave, and/or lactation breaks. We have also advocated for students who faced harassment and discrimination because they are parents or because they’ve had an abortion or miscarriage. In the absence of clear and readily enforceable federal protections these students were threatened with grade penalties, harm to their health, and even forced dismissal from their academic programs. The new regulations will prevent many of these harms and offer strengthened campus-level resources for students who need to raise complaints.

While the 2024 Title IX Regulations are a tremendous step toward ensuring equity in education, our work is not yet done. We are still awaiting the administration’s much-needed Title IX rules on athletics. Moreover, though the new regulations are remarkable, they do not significantly address the needs of parenting students beyond the pregnancy and postpartum period. The Pregnant Scholar will continue advocating and engaging at the institutional, state, and federal levels to end discrimination against student parents and to ensure that all family caregivers are supported in earning their degrees.

About the Pregnant Scholar

The Center for WorkLife Law’s Pregnant Scholar initiative is the nation’s legal resource center on the rights of pregnant and parenting postsecondary students, based at the UC College of the Law, San Francisco. We serve as a key driver of the Center’s mission to advance racial, gender, and reproductive justice by building legal rights for pregnant people and family caregivers so they can achieve and maintain economic security through fair employment and educational opportunities.

Through research and advocacy, the Pregnant Scholar advances legal protections in support of pregnant and parenting students to grow and strengthen their rights. Our team provides technical assistance to college/university administrators, training on Title IX and other legal protections, and assistance implementing best practice policies. The Pregnant Scholar also operates a free legal helpline for pregnant and parenting students nationwide who want to learn more about their rights or who need expert support in fighting harassment or securing accommodations and leave.

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