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Title IX prohibits schools from penalizing students for medically-necessary absences, including pregnancies. This morning we filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, urging it to investigate whether the Borough of Manhattan Community College has violated Title IX.

Written by Lara S. Kaufmann for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

Imagine you're an honors student at a community college. You're doing great: you've got a merit-based scholarship and you're enjoying your classes. You're also pregnant and excited to welcome the new addition to your family. 

Being the conscientious student that you are, you approach your professors as soon as classes start, tell them that you're due near the end of the semester, and ask that if you miss any tests due to a pregnancy-related absence you be allowed to make them up. You even offer to provide a doctor's note. Three of your professors congratulate you, and tell you that of course this won't be a problem. 

But one of your professors says she will not excuse any such leave or allow work missed to be made up, even if it's a labor and delivery emergency. She will not reconsider this policy "just because you find it inconvenient." You'll just have to deal with it or drop the class. 

Sheesh, okay, fine, this professor is being unreasonable. But surely when you appeal to the administration -- including the dean -- they'll intervene and tell the professor to reverse her decision, right? 

In fact, though, the dean tells you that each professor gets to set his or her own leave and make-up rules, regardless of what those rules are. And if you don't like it, you'll have to drop the class. 

You feel defeated, so you do it. You drop the class. And because dropping the class disqualified you from your scholarship program, you withdraw from that too. 

This all could have been prevented if the school had complied with Title IX, the civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education. 

Title IX prohibits schools from penalizing pregnant students for medically-necessary absences. Pregnant students should have the opportunity to make up any work they miss. It's that easy. 

Unfortunately, this is a true story. It's the story of our client, Stephanie, a student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, part of the City University of New York system. But it is also the story of many pregnant students in schools, colleges, and universities around the country. 

That's why this morning we filed an administrative complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights, urging it to investigate whether the college violated Title IX. (Spoiler alert! We think it did.)

It's absolutely essential that schools take their Title IX obligations seriously. Because it's hard enough to juggle school and life and get a college degree so you can make it in today's economy and support your family. The last thing you need is your school discriminating against you because you're pregnant.

For more information on Title IX and how the law protects pregnant and parenting students, visit

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Comment Preferences

  •  It makes me wonder (6+ / 0-)

    If the answer would have been the same if the student had been either male or had a different type of medical emergency. When I was in college we had a student miss a week because of an emergency appendectomy for example. No way to plan for it, no warning it was coming, just BOOM, in the hospital, and as he went septic, even when he was back, he was weak and uncomfortable and in pain. He took his final in the middle of the next class. No problem.

    Would this professor have had the same answer for someone calling from the hospital after surgery such as this? Would the dean?

    "Madness! Total and complete madness! This never would've happened if the humans hadn't started fighting one another!" Londo Mollari

    by FloridaSNMOM on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:23:20 PM PST

    •  Heck, what happens (4+ / 0-)

      if you're in her class, it's too late to drop, and you get in an auto accident? Do you just have to live with that "F" on your record?

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:30:47 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I took final in hospital (5+ / 0-)

      Happened to me. Emergency surgery the night before my finals. I tried to argue with the docs, but they said "You wanna live?" and their argument won. The other professors were very obliging and gave incompletes, but one actually sent the two-day take-home final by courier to my hospital room the next morning. I had the ambulance that was transferring me to student health center stop by the department two days later so I could turn it in. The department head was horrified to see me and even more  horrified that Professor A had refused to grant an incomplete. Professor A justified it on grounds that I managed to get an A anyway, but the head had words with him and he did not do it again.

  •  Right on! (10+ / 0-)

    Retired university prof here.

    These days there is no way a semi-conscious administrator should tolerate this.  Any prof so obviously uninterested in the welfare of the adult minds in her class should be shown the door.  Even if tenure makes such action difficult, at least the students (and, if they're smart, the students' advisors) will spread the word.  Before long, enrollments in that prof's classes will fall, other profs will take note, and the prof will either amend her ways or move on.

    I have no sympathy for whatever 'principle' the prof might attempt to invoke.  It's always about the students and the mutual contract to teach and learn.  Period.

    (-7.62,-7.33) Carbon footprint 12.6 metric tons. l'Enfer, c'est les autres.

    by argomd on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:37:02 PM PST

    •  Another professor, and I agree (7+ / 0-)

      I have actually given an excuse for someone whose horse was pregnant and happened to deliver, with help from the student who was also a vet, the day of the final! Student warned me in advance, worked hard while she was there, came to take exam as soon as the new foal was on the ground and stable. And she invited my young horse-crazy daughter and me out to see the "excuse", and showed me that the hooves were still soft from the delivery that morning. (I had not realized they were born with jello-like hooves, but if you think from the mare's perspective, it makes sense.)

    •  I excused a student from a... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      presentation because his wife was having pregnancy complications and was in danger of going into pre-term labor at any moment.  He drove about an hour in for class each time. I told him that he should not worry and that he should be with his wife! She did go into labor, and he made up the assignment. No problem...

      Our country can survive war, disease, and poverty... what it cannot do without is justice.

      by mommyof3 on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 07:51:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Couldn't she switch sections? (4+ / 0-)

    Since it was early in the semester, couldn't she have taken someone else's class rather than just dropping? Was it mandatory for the scholarship that she took that particular fool's class?

    261.A wealthy man can afford anything except a conscience. -Ferengi Rules of Acquisition

    by MaikeH on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:03:25 PM PST

    •  Depending on the class (5+ / 0-)

      there may not have been another section -- or there may not have been one at a time that wouldn't mess with the rest of her schedule. When you get far enough in your studies, you'll often find classes that only have a single section, especially when you finish your GenEd classes and are concentrating on classes related to your major.

      "If we ever needed to vote we sure do need to vote now" -- Rev. William Barber, NAACP

      by Cali Scribe on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:29:41 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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