Pregnant and parenting students

Schools around the country are gearing up for summer vacation, and — just in time to make all of your summer reading lists — the Department of Education has issued new Title IX guidance for school administrators, teachers and counselors: Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

It has been 40 years since the passage of Title IX and 22 years since the Department of Education last released guidance related to pregnant and parenting students. While pregnant and parenting students are protected by the non-discrimination provisions of Title IX, many students and school administrators need a strong reminder of what is required by Title IX. The educational attainment statistics for pregnant and parenting students are staggering: 

  • For female students, pregnancy is the most common family-related reason for dropping out of high school; 
  • Twenty-sex percent of young men and women who have dropped out of high school — and one-third of women — said that becoming a parent was a major factor in their decision to leave school; 
  • Only 51 percent of young women who had a child before age 20 earned their high school diploma by age 22; and 
  • Only 2 percent of young women who had a child before 18 earned a college degree by age 30. 

The lack of educational support puts pregnant and parenting students in a precarious situation — often unemployed or underemployed, earning less, and having to rely on government benefits. 

The guidance released today includes a new set of Frequently Asked Questions that will clarify for schools what their obligations under Title IX are, so they will provide a more supportive environment that allows pregnant and parenting students to complete school and support their families. The guidance  also suggests strategies for administrators, teachers, and counselors to use to support pregnant and parenting students, and includes a discussion of the types of programs that school districts have in place that are making a difference in the lives of these students. 

The Center receives calls every week from young women who are being pushed out of school, harassed, or mistreated due to pregnancy. The Center provides a number of resources for students and schools who want to ensure compliance with Title IX. The guidance focuses mostly on K-12 schools but states explicitly that it also applies to post-secondary institutions too.  This is important, because discrimination is prevalent at college and graduate levels as well (for a good example, read about our recent settlement with the City University of New York). 

The National Women’s Law Center applauds the Department of Education for issuing this new guidance. We look forward to working with the Office for Civil Rights to make sure that all students succeed.