AT-A-GLANCE FACT SHEET
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting discrimination in federally assisted educational programs and activities. These laws include Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities. All public and private educational institutions that receive any federal financial assistance must comply with this law. Title IX protects students in all of the academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs or activities of schools. This includes prohibiting discrimination against pregnant and parenting students.
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?
NO! Colleges cannot require a pregnant student to produce a doctor’s note in order to stay in school or participate in activities, 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.
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’ doctor deems the absences to be medically necessary. When the student returns to college, 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 a retaking a semester, taking part in an online course, or allowing 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. Title IX requires a college to provide the same special services to a pregnant student that it provides to students with temporary medical conditions.
What if some professors have their own policies about class attendance and make-up work?
Colleges and Universities must ensure that the policies and practices of individual professors do not discriminate against pregnant students. For example,
What about internships, career rotations, and other off-campus elements of the program – does a pregnant student have the right to participate in those?
YES! The college must allow pregnant students to continue participating in off-campus programs. For example, if the program provides opportunities to work in the field, the college cannot deny the pregnant student participation based on her pregnancy. The college cannot require a doctor’s note for continued participation, unless the college requires one for all students who have a medical condition that requires treatment by the doctor.
A student wants to return to school 3 days after she has the baby so she doesn’t fall too far behind. The department chair thinks she should take more time off to recover. What should the student do?
The college must leave it up to the student and her doctor to decide when she can return. While the college must offer to excuse more leave than that (under Title IX), no one can force a student to take more leave just because they think it would be better for the student (or the baby).
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights
National Women’s Law Center:
(2013). 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.
Title IX. (2012, October ). Retrieved from National Women's Law Center: www.nwlc.org.