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Pregnant and Parenting Teens

In a recent pamphlet issued by the United States Department of Education (you can find the full document here) the challenges faced by pregnant and parenting students were brought to the forefront. This pamphlet highlights research showing that becoming a parent is highly correlated with high school dropout and low educational attainment. Amongst young women who had dropped out of school, one-third reported that becoming a mother was a major factor in their decision to leave school. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Education cited research showing that only 2% of young women who had a child before age 18 earned a college degree by age 30. Thus, there is a strong need to improve the high school and college graduation rates of young parents, which will require schools better supporting pregnant and parenting students so that they can stay in school and complete their education. Additionally, it is critically important that pregnant and parenting students know their rights, as schools are legally required to treat pregnant and parenting students the same way they would treat any other student with a temporary medical condition. Below is a summary of the rights of pregnant and parenting students and if at any point you feel that your rights are being violated, please contact the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

The rights of pregnant and parenting students under Title IX

  • Schools cannot discriminate on the basis of pregnancy and all related conditions (e.g., childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, etc.).
  • Schools cannot discriminate on the basis of parental, family, or marital status.
  • In general, Title IX says that schools must treat pregnant and parenting students the same way they treat other students.

Thus, if you are a pregnant or parenting teen or teen you have the right to:

  • Stay in school and stay in your regular classes. You have the right to stay in school while you are pregnant and after your baby is born.
  • Participate in all school and extracurricular activities. Your school can make you give them a letter from your doctor saying that you are medically able to participate, but only if it requires all students who see a doctor for a “health or medical condition” to do the same.
  • Participate in special programs for pregnant students. However, no one in your school can require or force you to take a special class for pregnant and parenting students, it must be voluntary.
  • Have excused absences for health problems related to your pregnancy or childbirth. You have the right to stay home from school for as long as your doctor says you should.
  • Return to your regular classes and activities after your baby is born. You have the right to return to school at the same academic status you had before you left school because of your pregnancy.

Your school may not discriminate against you for being pregnant or for being a mother. This means that your school must treat pregnancy and childbirth the same as other medical conditions. Therefore,

  • If other students who miss school for health reasons receive make-up assignments from their teachers, then you are entitled to receive make-up assignments for the classes that you miss because of pregnancy or childbirth.
  • If home instruction is available for students who need to stay home due to a medical condition, then you are entitled to home instruction if your doctor says that you need to stay home from school because of your pregnancy or childbirth.

The Specifics: Education Options, Absences, and Extracurricular Activities

Educational Options:

  • Under Michigan state law, all school districts are required to provide homebound or hospitalized instructional services to students who are absent for five or more consecutive school days because of a medical conditions, including pregnancy, childbirth, and recovery (National Women’s Law Center, 2011).
  • Students must be able to choose voluntarily their educational options. Thus, pregnant or parenting students cannot be forced into a stand-alone alternative school and are allowed to stay in their home school and be able to return to their home school at any time.
  • Schools cannot require parenting education of female teen parents if it does not do so for male teen parents.

Absences and Leave Policies:

  • Schools cannot require students to be absent a prescribed period of time after the birth of their child.
  • If other students who miss school are entitled to make up assignments, so too are pregnant and parenting students.
  • If home instruction is available to others who are absent due to a medical condition, so too are pregnant and parenting teens entitled to such services.
  • Pregnant and parenting students cannot be penalized for absences due to childbirth as they have a doctor’s note.
  • If a district has a policy that students fail when they miss a certain number of school days, and they waive the policy for students with extended medical conditions or temporary disabilities, they must also waive the policy for pregnant and parenting students with a doctor’s note.

Extracurricular Activities:

  • No restrictions can be placed on students because of pregnancy or parenting status.
  • Schools can only require a doctor’s note to participate in school activities if they require it from all students who see a doctor for a health-related reason.

Resources

For more information about your rights:

United States Department of Education

United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights

If you need help enforcing your rights or if you would like more information about your rights the National Women’s Law Center is a great resource.

For healthcare and health-related information:

Corner Health Center

Regional Alliance for Healthy Schools

Michigan Department of Community Health: Pregnant Women, Children, and Families

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