16 Jun Delayed Title IX Regulations: Our Perspective
The Pregnant Scholar is deeply troubled by the Department of Education’s recently announced delay in updating its Title IX rule. As the nation’s legal resource center dedicated to protecting the rights of pregnant and parenting postsecondary students, we have seen the dire need for stronger legal protections firsthand. Initially proposed to be published in May 2023 and enforced by the 2023-24 school year, this delay until at least October sets protections, training, and enforcement back a semester or more—a critical amount of time that could impact students’ ability to continue their education.
Since the draft regulations were released a year ago, The Pregnant Scholar’s helpline has heard from dozens of students who were denied pregnancy accommodations, maternity recovery leave, and/or lactation breaks. We have also spoken with students who have faced harassment and discrimination because they are parents or because they’ve had an abortion or miscarriage. Without clear federal protections, these students face grade penalties, harm to their health, and even forced dismissal from their academic programs.
In the face of ever-changing laws restricting access to reproductive health care, students need assurance that they will be protected and will be able to continue their education regardless of their pregnancy or parental status. As one student parent shared in a letter supporting the new regulations, “I was punished for becoming pregnant, forced to continue the pregnancy and keep the baby[,] then punished further for being a student and parent.” No student should be penalized for their family or their pregnancy—yet that happens every day.
More than 1 in 5 undergraduate college students are parents, as are 1 in 3 graduate students. Despite making up a significant portion of the student population, educational institutions often fail to meet pregnant and parenting students’ needs and protect them from discrimination. As noted in our letters to the Department of Education, we are anxiously awaiting the adoption of the new Title IX regulations as they will address the lack of accountability and clarity in the existing regulations on pregnancy and parental status which have changed little since the 1970s. The accountability and clearly articulated rights in the proposed new Title IX regulations are essential to ensure equity for pregnant and parenting students and others.
As outlined in our blog post from June 2022, the updated Title IX regulations offer additional and crucial protections, including continuing to provide accommodations for pregnancy and related conditions, clean and safe lactation spaces and protected time to use them, and defining ‘parent’ in a way that reflects the diversity of student parent families. Critically, the new regulations will also clarify who is responsible for ensuring these students get the reasonable academic adjustments, leave, and anti-discrimination protections they need to thrive.
The Pregnant Scholar urges educational institutions to not wait for the updated guidance from the Department of Education to enact or improve policies. Our team has published many tools based on the existing and proposed Title IX regulations including our Considerations and Tools for the New Title IX Regulations and our Checklist for Title IX Coordinators, outlining key steps to work with pregnant students. We recommend reviewing our model policies on Leave & Academic Accommodations and Lactation Support, and we also provide trainings on campuses’ legal responsibilities and best practices to ensure pregnant and parenting students have equal educational opportunities. Each of these tools and training opportunities will give your campus a head start on meeting the new Title IX requirements and will support you in the ongoing and critical work of supporting pregnant and parenting students.
Pregnant and parenting students need stronger protections now, and we cannot wait another semester. Even as we applaud their thoughtful and impactful work, we strongly urge the U.S. Department of Education to do everything in its power to finalize the Title IX regulations as soon as possible.
Director, Pregnant Scholar Initiative
About the Pregnant Scholar Initiative:
The Pregnant Scholar Initiative at the University of California College of the Law San Francisco’s Center for WorkLife Law is the nation’s legal resource center dedicated to the rights of pregnant and parenting postsecondary students. Since our founding in 2015, we have provided technical assistance and educational equity trainings for student parents, pregnant students, and thousands of administrators nationwide. We have also directly assisted hundreds of pregnant and parenting students facing discrimination or uncertainty about their rights on college and university campuses. All of our services are provided at low or no cost.
You can count on The Pregnant Scholar to keep you updated on everything related to Title IX and supporting pregnant and parenting college students. Want to stay connected? Sign up here to receive news about future training opportunities, toolkits, and general communications.