A Better Balance recently submitted a comment to the U.S. Department of Education in response to its proposed rule to update Title IX protections for pregnant and parenting students and workers in schools across the country.
Title IX is the landmark federal legislation that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs receiving federal funds — including all public schools as well as most private colleges and universities.
Our comment praised the Department’s proposed rule for helpfully modernizing Title IX regulations affecting pregnant and parenting students. For example, the proposed rule, if adopted, would, importantly:
- Require schools to provide “reasonable modifications” to pregnant students, such as breaks to use the restroom, absences to attend medical appointments, access to online education, and changes to course schedule or sequence, as long as doing so would not “fundamentally alter” the school’s education program. These kinds of modest accommodations are often essential to help pregnant students be able to stay in school and learn like any other student.
- Require schools to provide both students and workers breaks to pump milk or breastfeed, and a private space in which to do so.
Still, in order to ensure that federal funds are not used to discriminate against pregnant and postpartum people on the basis of sex, we urged the Department to strengthen the proposed rule further and:
- Establish that school workers, not just students, have an affirmative right to reasonable modifications for pregnancy and related conditions, such as help with manual labor, reduced or modified work schedule, adjustments to uniform requirements, and temporary transfer to alternate position;
- Clarify that schools may not force pregnant students and workers to provide medical documentation, such as doctor’s notes, in order to obtain the vast majority of reasonable modifications for pregnancy and related conditions;
- Make clear that both students and workers have, at minimum, a right to all medically necessary time off, including leaves of absence to recover from childbirth and absences to attend prenatal and postnatal appointments;
- Bolster students’ and workers’ lactation rights to ensure that they have access to a functional lactation space — that is, one in proximity to their place of study or work, with a chair, flat surface to place a pump, and access to electricity, running water, and a fridge to store milk.
Our full comment is available here. Now that public comment on the proposed rule has closed, the Department will review the hundreds of thousands of comments received and hopefully issue a final rule in the months ahead.
Students and workers in schools with questions about their rights can contact our free, confidential legal helpline here.