What Are My Rights As a Pregnant Student?
| Read Time: 3 minutes | Pregnancy Discrimination

Most people know that pregnancy discrimination is illegal at work. But did you know that pregnancy discrimination is also illegal at school? 

Until Title IX was passed in 1972, the law did not recognize pregnant students’ right to remain in school. Title IX prohibits schools that receive federal funding (public high schools and nearly all universities) from discriminating against students who are pregnant or parenting. Schools are required to ensure that pregnant and parenting students have the same access to educational programs as other students. 

Discrimination Against Pregnant Students

It is illegal for any school that receives federal funding to discriminate against pregnant students. This means that your school cannot kick you out of on-campus housing because of your pregnancy. It also cannot cut off your need-based financial aid, merit scholarships, or athletic scholarships because of your pregnancy. If you are a pregnant student-athlete, you are entitled to participate in your sport or apply for a red-shirt season. 

Once you’re a parent, your school must continue to provide the same educational opportunities as it did before your pregnancy. For instance, if you took a semester off to bond with your baby, you are entitled to reinstatement on your sports team or into your honors program when you return to school. 

Freedom from Harassment

Your school must protect you from harassment based on your status as a pregnant or breastfeeding student. If students are immature and harass you, it may constitute illegal sex discrimination. You should report it to your school’s Title IX office or other administrators. If they fail to take action to protect you from harassment, they may be liable for any emotional harms you incur.

Accommodations for Pregnant Students

Pregnant students are entitled to accommodations to allow them to continue their education during their pregnancy and post-partum recovery period. This means that:

  • If you miss a class due to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition, your teacher or professor cannot apply any attendance policies against you.
  • Your teacher or professor must allow you to submit work late if you were disabled or missed class due to a pregnancy-related medical condition, including childbirth. 
  • You must be provided the same educational support and benefits as other disabled students, such as remote learning opportunities, independent study programs, additional tutoring, breaks during exams, etc.
  • If your teacher or professor provides “extra credit” or other “plus-factors” for attendance, you must be given the opportunity to earn the same educational benefits. 

Breastfeeding & Pumping While in School

Many schools do not have formal policies regarding lactation breaks or accommodations. However, Title IX and Department of Education guidelines are clear that you should not be penalized for taking time away from class to pump or breastfeed your baby. This means that you cannot be penalized for attendance for any pregnancy-related absences, and you may be entitled to additional time for exams or assignments if you need to take breaks to pump. 

Department of Education guidelines encourage schools to provide students with a private room to breastfeed or pump. Although the law is not clear on what, exactly, is required–unlike in the employment context–if the accommodations are not suitable and you cannot adequately pump or breastfeed, it likely violates Title IX. In addition, if other students are given private space or accommodations for non-pregnancy-related medical conditions (e.g., if they are given access to refrigerators, private sinks, or electrical outlets for other medical reasons, for example to conduct blood insulin testing), you must be given the same services for your breastfeeding needs. 

Contact Our Experienced Pregnancy Discrimination Attorneys 

Our firm was founded by a working mother with personal experience fighting for the right to pump at work. It can be a demeaning and frustrating experience to fight for your rights and challenges breastfeeding can be devastating for new mothers. We are passionate about helping women who are denied the right to lactation accommodations.

If you have experienced discrimination due to your pregnancy or been denied lactation accommodations, do not hesitate to contact us today through our website or give us a call at (213) 465-4802 to see how we can help!

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Julian Burns King graduated with honors from Harvard Law School and founded King & Siegel in 2018. As head of the Firm’s discrimination and harassment practice areas, she champions the rights of working parents and victims of workplace discrimination and harassment. She has been recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers annually since 2018 and has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of her clients.

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