Pregnancy is specially protected in Wright State University’s Non-Discrimination Policy which specifically states, “Wright State University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, age, national origin, national ancestry, sex, pregnancy, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, military service or veteran status, mental or physical disability, or genetic information in employment, admission, treatment, or access to its programs or activities.” The Policy also indicates that it shall adhere to all applicable state and federal equal opportunity/affirmative action statuses and regulations.
While the University does not specifically provide for procedures when a pregnant or parenting student has experienced discrimination, the guidance from the Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is particularly instructive.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting discrimination in federally assisted programs and activities. These laws include Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX), which prohibits discrimination based on sex in educational programs or activities. All public and private educational institutions that receive any federal financial assistance (“schools”) 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 pregnant and parenting students.
ED’s regulation implementing Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions. Under Title IX, it is illegal for schools to exclude a pregnant or parenting student from participating in any part of an educational program. In addition, a school must excuse a student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth for as long as the student’s doctor deems medically necessary. When a student returns to school, they must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before their medical leave began.
Of note, the Office for Civil Rights specifically addresses how to handle absences and missed work due to pregnancy or childbirth in their June 25, 2013 Dear Colleague Letter and accompanying pamphlet. In accordance with Title IX, when a student returns to school, they must be reinstated to the status they held when the leave began, which should include giving them the opportunity to make up any work missed. A school may offer the student alternatives to making up missed work, such as retaking a semester or allowing the student additional time in a program to continue at the same pace and finish at a later date. The student should be allowed to choose how to make up the work. Should teachers at the school have their own policies about attendance and make-up work, the school must ensure that the policies and practices of individual teachers do not discriminate against pregnant students.