Is Parental Status a Protected Category?
Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex in education, athletics, hiring, and housing programs that receive federal funding. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this includes protection from discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and/or parental status. This means that pregnant or parenting students cannot be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity based on their parental status.
Your Rights as a Pregnant Student
The protection under Title IX extends to your involvement in classes and school activities, irrespective of your pregnancy or parental status. You retain the right to continue partaking in classes, extracurricular activities, honors or advanced placement classes, clubs, sports, and other school activities like after-school programs.
Additionally, your institution cannot pressure you into joining special instructional programs or classes organized for pregnant students. Your choice to participate remains voluntary. If you choose to join, you should expect the same academic, extracurricular, and enrichment opportunities as the regular program.
Your educational institution is also required to:
- Provide reasonable adjustments to accommodate your needs during pregnancy.
- According to your doctor's directives, provide medical leave and excuse absences while pregnant and during childbirth.
- Upon return, reinstate you to the same academic and extracurricular status, with opportunities to make up for missed work.
- Provide pregnant students with the same special services provided to students with temporary medical conditions, including homebound instruction, at-home tutoring, or independent study.
Your institution should not impose any requirement for a doctor's note specifically because of your pregnancy. Such a requirement is only valid if it applies to all students with a physical or emotional condition necessitating a doctor's treatment.
It is also prohibited to penalize you for deadlines missed due to pregnancy or childbirth. If class participation or attendance forms part of your grading, you should have the opportunity to earn back lost credits.
How Parental Status Discrimination Violates Title IX
While pregnancy discrimination is sometimes easy to identify, parental status discrimination can be trickier to recognize. Discrimination based on parental status in violation of Title IX can manifest in several ways within educational settings.
Here are a few examples:
- Failing to provide appropriate accommodations
- Penalizing for absences related to medical care
- Denying or limiting access to school programs or activities
- Discrimination in grading
- Harassment or bullying
Educational institutions need to be aware of these scenarios and take steps to prevent such discriminatory practices. Pregnant and parenting students should be treated with the same respect and fairness as their peers.
If you suspect you have been discriminated against based on your status as a parent or caregiver, you are encouraged to reach out to a qualified attorney for guidance.
Why Consult with an Attorney?
Despite these protections, parental status discrimination remains a significant issue in education. Many parents, particularly women, face roadblocks when pursuing their educational goals. This can lead to lower enrollment rates, higher dropout rates, and fewer opportunities for advancement. Understanding the intersection of Title IX and parental status discrimination is crucial in addressing these challenges and promoting equality in education.
Consulting with an attorney can bring you the following benefits:
- Legal Knowledge: Trained attorneys have a deep understanding of Title IX and how it applies to cases of discrimination based on pregnancy or parental status. They can guide you through the complexities of the law and help you understand your rights.
- Representation: An attorney can represent you in all legal proceedings, ensuring your case is presented professionally and comprehensively. This includes filing complaints, gathering evidence, and representing you during hearings.
- Negotiation Skills: Experienced lawyers have honed their negotiation skills, which can be crucial if a settlement is an option. They can help ensure you get the best possible outcome in your case.
- Reduced Stress: Facing discrimination is already stressful. Having an attorney handle your case allows you to focus on your personal life and education while they tackle the legal aspects of your case.
- Confidentiality: Attorneys are bound by professional ethics to maintain your privacy and confidentiality. This allows you to openly discuss all aspects of your case with them, knowing that the information will be used strictly for your benefit.
You are not alone in this; get help understanding your rights pertaining to Title IX. Contact Parisi, Coan & Saccocio, PLLC, online and schedule a consultation to discuss your situation.