May a college require a pregnant student to obtain a doctor’s permission before allowing them to attend school late in their pregnancy if the college is worried about the student’s health or safety?
NO! Colleges cannot require a pregnant student to produce a doctor’s note in order to stay in school or participate in activities, unless the same requirement to obtain a doctor’s note applies to all students being treated by a doctor. That is, colleges cannot treat a pregnant student differently from other students being cared for by a doctor, even when a student is in the later stages of pregnancy; colleges should not presume that a pregnant student is unable to attend school or participate in school activities.
Does a college have to excuse a student’s absences due to pregnancy or childbirth?
YES! Title IX requires a college to excuse a student’s absences due to pregnancy or related conditions, including recovery from childbirth, for as long as the student’ doctor deems the absences to be medically necessary. When the student returns to college, they must be reinstated to the status they held when the leave began, which should include giving them the opportunity to make up any work missed. A college may offer the student alternatives to making up missed work, such as a retaking a semester, taking part in an online course, or allowing additional time in a program to continue at the same pace and finish at a later date, especially after longer periods of leave. The student should be allowed to choose how to make up the work.
If the college requires students with other medical conditions to submit a doctor’s note, it may require the same from a pregnant student.
Title IX requires a college to provide the same special services to a pregnant student that it provides to students with temporary medical conditions.
What if some professors have their own policies about class attendance and make-up work?
Colleges and Universities must ensure that the policies and practices of individual professors do not discriminate against pregnant students. For example,
- Professors may not refuse to allow a student to submit work after a deadline that they missed because of absences due to pregnancy or childbirth.
- If the grading process is based in part on class attendance or participation, the student should be allowed to earn the credits they missed so that they can be reinstated to the status they had before the leave.
What about internships, career rotations, and other off-campus elements of the program – does a pregnant student have the right to participate in those?
YES! The college must allow pregnant students to continue participating in off-campus programs. For example, if the program provides opportunities to work in the field, the college cannot deny the pregnant student participation based on their pregnancy. The college cannot require a doctor’s note for continued participation, unless the college requires one for all students who have a medical condition that requires treatment by the doctor.
A student wants to return to school 3 days after they have the baby so they don’t fall too far behind. The department chair thinks they should take more time off to recover. What should the student do?
The college must leave it up to the student and their doctor to decide when they can return. While the college must offer to excuse more leave than that (under Title IX), no one can force a student to take more leave just because they think it would be better for the student (or the baby).