Her Teacher Told Her ‘No’

When Mikelia found out she was going to be a mother before the end of her junior year, she became more determined than ever to get her high school diploma. But her school in rural Georgia had other plans.

After her doctor ordered her on bedrest, Mikelia requested at-home or online tutoring. Her school told her ‘no.’ She asked her teachers to send assignments home. Her school said she would not receive credit for this work and refused to excuse Mikelia’s absences. She failed the semester and was in danger of not graduating on time. She considered dropping out altogether.

Then she called the National Women’s Law Center.

Title IX — the law that bars sex discrimination in federally funded schools — requires schools to excuse pregnancy-related absences and allow students to make up work missed. And Georgia law requires schools to offer homebound instruction for students who miss school for pregnancy-related reasons. Not only did this school violate Mikelia’s rights, but it had a history of discriminating against pregnant students.

We helped Mikelia file a complaint with the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. And we won: the school district agreed to change its written policies, re-train faculty and staff, and add a new Title IX coordinator in its central office.

And the school agreed to let Mikelia make up her classes and graduate with the rest of her classmates. Today, she’s studying to be a certified nursing assistant at a nearby technical college and her daughter celebrated the first of many birthdays to come.

The Center does even more to help pregnant and parenting students. We create toolkits to help pregnant students secure their educational rights. We engage lawmakers to create policies that support student parents in high school and college. We encourage schools to adopt promising practices. And we work with other advocates to challenge assumptions, change attitudes, and erase the stigma associated with being a young mother. Because parenthood should not be the end of the road for teen moms, their families, and their communities.