August 9, 2013 – Flint, Mich. – Legal Services of Eastern Michigan monitors new regulations and discovered that these new guidelines will try to make sure that pregnant teens are treated like everyone else in the classroom. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is handing them out to school administrators, teachers, counselors, parents and students. The guidelines are part of a plan to help improve the high school and college graduation rates of young parents and to help President Obama obtain his goal to have the U.S. lead the world by 2020 with the highest number of people graduating from college.
The guidelines support Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. They prohibit discrimination based on sex in all public and private schools that receive federal financial assistance. They protect pregnant and parenting students against discrimination in academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic and other programs or activities.
“Pregnancy is one of the most common reasons female students give for dropping out of high school,” says Legal Services of Eastern Michigan Attorney Lindsey Lavine. “We want to make sure pregnant young women and young fathers are treated fairly in school and are encouraged to continue their education.”
In 2011, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that more than 329,000 young women in the U.S. aged 15-to-19 had babies. A 2006 report that surveyed 467 students aged 16-to-25 found that 26-percent of both young men and women and a third of the women all said becoming a parent was a major factor in their leaving school.
The U.S. Department of Education’s guidelines state that schools must treat pregnant students the same way they treat other students in similar situations, in other words any special services provided to students who have temporary medical conditions must also be provided to pregnant students. Schools may also be required to provide other things like a larger desk, allow frequent trips to the bathroom and permit temporary access to elevators.
The guidelines also state that any student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth must be excused for as long as the student’s doctor says it’s medically necessary. When a student returns to school after having the baby, she must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before her medical leave began.
Acting assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education Seth Galanter says “by ensuring that the student has the opportunity to maintain her academic status, we can encourage young parents to work toward graduation instead of choosing to drop out of school.”
“Not all schools have done much in the past to protect pregnant teens from discrimination,” says Lavine. “Hopefully this will ensure that they are treated appropriately and that they get the support they need to stay in school and go on to college.”
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