Title IX saves lives

Contributed by Beth Rahal, Pregnant on Campus Director

Learning to care

As a student-athlete in college, I had heard about Title IX ever so briefly during our team orientations. We were lectured on gender equity in sports and informed that our women’s teams would be just as well supported as our male counterparts. There was probably a Q&A segment, and maybe we had to fill out papers to sign acknowledging our awareness of this information. Other than that, it wasn’t a big deal. I might have also heard about Title IX in history class or in passing references to sexual harassment and assault on campus, but for the most part, I was in the dark. For all I cared, Title IX was five letters and two Roman numerals.

I find that this is the case with most students. If you aren’t personally experiencing discrimination on campus or in a position to need these types of resources, you aren’t likely to have sought out this information or learned it in earnest. Many times, we don’t bother learning critical information, like Title IX rights and accommodations or even our local pregnancy support resources, until we need it (for ourselves or a classmate asking for help). We assume that we’ll be able to access all this information when the time comes.

And while this is true in many cases, it’s not the best approach! Delays in providing information can cause more distress for your pregnant and parenting peers. As a Female-Athlete-Know-Your-Title-IX-Rights-653x1024student leader on campus (especially one who advocates for pregnant and parenting students), you need to take the time to research this information, compile it in one place, and discuss it with your group so that you are prepared to respond promptly and effectively to the concerns and needs of your peers.

Why it matters

Title IX provides protections and accommodations for pregnant and parenting students at schools which receive federal funding. Therefore, it can be a great tool to ensure that pregnant and parenting students stay in school and receive fair accommodations and support. Unfortunately, most students don’t know that these protections and accommodations are available. This can lead to students making devastating choices (e.g. dropping out of school or getting an abortion). Lack of information can also prevent a student from asserting her rights when she is being discriminated against or not adequate support.

Over the past three years, our Students for Life of America staff has noted that Title IX information is one of the top resources that pregnant and parenting students request. Simple, articulate explanations of this information has yielded some amazing results! Here are some of the situations we have witnessed over the years:

After learning about Title IX …

  • Pregnant students are better able to communicate their situation, their rights, and their needs to their professors and administrations.
  • Students have been able to resolve issues of grades and class credits that resulted from improper handlings of pregnancy-related absences (e.g. missed classwork during childbirth and recovery).
  • Pregnant students have been able to stay on their sports teams and in their special programs (e.g. honors classes) without penalty or loss of scholarship.
  • Parenting students have been able to defend their right to breastfeed their babies on campus.

This past week, we had the opportunity to work with a parenting student (Ruth) at Pikes Peak Community College to resolve her financial aid situation. Ruth was told that she would lose financial aid after having not completed enough class credits in the past semester. However, Ruth had never received Title IX information or additional support to complete those classes. Thanks to some quick teamwork, we were able to explain how to address this situation with the school’s Title IX Coordinator and what information to present. It was a success!

Lives saved

What’s more, Title IX has saved lives. About two weeks ago, our Western Regional Director, Reagan Barklage, was contacted by the Executive Director of a pregnancy resource center. The Executive Director had a client who was a student-athlete. The young girl considered aborting her baby because she was afraid that she would lose her basketball scholarship and have to drop off the team.

Thankfully, our Pregnant on Campus Initiative is prepared to handle these situations. Reagan and I worked together to get Title IX and NCAA student-athlete information sent to the Executive Director. After explaining this Title IX information, this brave student-athlete chose life!

What you can do

We want you to be able to effectively support your pregnant and parenting peers on campus. Contact our team for such resources as:

  • Title IX student group training
  • Title IX flyers and social media graphics
  • Ideas for how to advertise and share this information
  • Assistance in dealing with a Title IX pregnancy or parenting situation on your campus

Learn more about Title IX here: www.PregnantOnCampus.org/Students-Rights

Pregnant student gets Christian college to change pregnancy policy

Students for Life of America started the Pregnant on Campus Initiative because we knew that students were getting pregnant on college campuses and oftentimes had no idea that there were resources available for them so that they wouldn’t have to choose between their child and their education. Pregnant on Campus not only sought to tell students about those resource, like scholarships, special housing, and childcare options – but also create their own – things like lobbying the school for diaper decks in restrooms and easily accessible nursing rooms, holding baby showers for pregnant moms, offering babysitting services.

Title IX is a non-discrimination law that gives pregnant students the right to not be discriminated against by the school but many pregnant students don’t even know it exists. Pregnant on Campus seeks to let students know about this policy. But one student in South Carolina at a small, Christian school not only made the brave decision to have her baby when she got pregnant but also to take her school to court when they kicked her off campus for getting pregnant, citing Title IX.

Let’s repeat that: this happened at a Christian college. A Christian college kicked a pregnant student off their campus for getting pregnant instead of helping her and offering her resources to make sure she had the chance to stay in school and keep her child.

Kamaria Downs, the student at Claflin University, chose life for her child but many in her situation choose abortion. A Lifeway Research survey found that nearly 70% of women who have abortions self-identify as a Christian.  The Institute for Pro-Life Advancement, a project of SFLA, recently released polling that revealed a small number of Christian churches discuss abortion and the pro-life position on a regular basis. This is a tragedy. Abortion is a problem inside the church, as well as outside it.

Last year, SFLA released a public letter from almost two dozen students at Christian schools asking their administrations to change their policies on pregnant students to reflect the Christian viewpoint of mercy, grace and love. Kicking a student out of school because she’s pregnant isn’t a Christian response. Christian schools need to support pregnant and parenting students, not kick them out of school.

Kamaria was not only brave in her choice to carry her child to term but also courageous for challenging her school to change their policy on pregnant students. Claflin did change their policy and even thanked Kamaria for bringing the fault to their attention.

Kamaria is now the proud mom of a one-year-old little girl and is a second grade teacher. She is a wonderful example of perseverance and a good role model for her daughter. Hopefully her case will be recognized by the hundreds of other Christian schools in the country and force them to consider their own policies on pregnant and parenting students.

Photo of Kamaria Downs courtesy of Public Justice.