Pregnant and Parenting Students

Graduate smiling at child surrounded by family

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is responsible for enforcing laws prohibiting discrimination in federally assisted educational programs and activities. These laws include Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities. All public and private educational institutions that receive any federal financial assistance must comply with this law. Title IX protects students in all of the academic, educational, extracurricular, athletic, and other programs or activities of schools. This includes prohibiting discrimination against pregnant and parenting students.

  • Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions.
  • Under Title IX, it is illegal for schools to exclude a pregnant student from participating in any of an educational program. Schools may implement special instructional programs or classes for a pregnant student, but participation must be completely voluntary on the part of the student, and the programs and classes must be comparable to those offered to other students.
  • Schools must excuse a student’s absences because of pregnancy or childbirth for as long as the student’s doctor deems the absences medically necessary. When a student returns to school, they must be allowed to return to the same academic and extracurricular status as before their medical leave began.
  • Any special services provided to students who have temporary medical conditions must also be provided to a pregnant student.

(2013). Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Title IX. (2012, October ). Retrieved from National Women’s Law Center.

Commonly Asked Questions

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.

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.

Title IX requires a college to provide the same special services to a pregnant student that it provides to students with temporary medical conditions.

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.

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.

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).

  • Pregnant and parenting students can seek the assistance of the Title IX Coordinator and school counselors who can provide the support needed to help the students to remain in school.
  • Encourage pregnant and parenting students to seek the assistance of the Title IX Coordinator who can provide the support needed to help the students to remain in school.

Rights of Pregnant and Parenting Students

Human Resources and Payroll Services

December 2021

1. Rationale for Policy

Fitchburg State is committed to creating an accessible and inclusive environment for pregnant and parenting students. The University’s System Equal Opportunity Plan prohibits harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex, in accordance with Title IX.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”), 20 U.S.C. §1681 et seq., is a Federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex—including pregnancy and parental status—in educational programs and activities. All public and private school districts, colleges, and universities receiving any federal funds (“schools”) must comply with Title IX.

This policy has been developed specifically to outline the rights of pregnant and parenting students, as part of Fitchburg State’s ongoing efforts to ensure the protection and equal treatment of students who are pregnant, who are living with pregnancy-related conditions, and who identify as new parents. Fitchburg State fully recognizes that pregnancy without complications or additional diagnoses is not a disability. In terms of institutional assistance, students who are pregnant can expect similar accommodations and support as an individual with a temporary disability. As described in this policy, Fitchburg State will take reasonable steps to ensure that students have opportunities for academic accommodations as necessary, including ensuring that a student does not lose academic progress or access to their course catalog when taking a leave of absence or medical leave related to pregnancy or parenting status.

1 Sex for Title IX purposes is biological or anatomical factors, actual or perceived gender identity, and/or actual or perceived sexual orientation.

This policy applies to all Fitchburg State students in all aspects of Fitchburg State’s educational programs and activities, which includes, but is not limited to, admissions related activities, extracurricular activities, student employment, etc.

For purposes of this policy, the term “parenting” refers to raising a child in a reasonably immediate postpartum period. “Reasonable Accommodations” are changes to a student’s academic environment or typical operations to enable a pregnant student or a student with pregnancy related conditions to continue to pursue their education at Fitchburg State, thereby ensuring equal access to the University’s education program or activity. Such accommodations are provided following coordination with appropriate Fitchburg State administrators and when deemed a medical necessity by the student’s selected health care provider.

Faculty and/or Staff [Employees] seeking pregnancy related accommodations should contact the Office of Human Resources and Payroll Services.

Human Resources and Student Affairs works to ensure equal access for students under Title IX.  General questions about this policy and available supportive measures should be directed to the Title IX Coordinator.

Rebecca Newell
Director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity

2. Non-Discrimination and Reasonable Accommodation

Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against or harassment of students who are pregnant, have just given birth, or experiencing pregnancy-related conditions. Fitchburg State is committed to providing a safe environment for such students to continue their academic program free of harassment and discrimination and without limitations due to pregnancy or related conditions.

Fitchburg State is committed to providing reasonable accommodations for students affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions. Fitchburg State and its faculty and staff will not require students to limit their participation in education programs and activities or take a leave of absence as a result of pregnancy or pregnancy-related conditions. As such Fitchburg State is committed to providing the following reasonable accommodations.

  1. Students affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions will receive benefits and services no less than those provided to students with temporary medical conditions.
  2. Students with pregnancy-related disabilities, like any student with a short-term or temporary disability, are entitled to reasonable accommodations designed to help them continue in their academic coursework without limitations or disadvantages due to their condition.
  3. Fitchburg State will not impose artificial deadlines or time limitations on a student’s request for reasonable accommodations, but the University is limited in its ability to impact or implement accommodations retroactively.
  4. Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:
    • Accommodations requested by a pregnant student to protect the health and safety of the student and/or the pregnancy, such as allowing the student to maintain a safe distance from hazardous substances;
    • Modifications to the physical environment, such as accessible seating’
    • Mobility support;
    • Granting breaks from class (in person or online) to use the restroom or to adjust the physical body;
    • Extended deadlines and/or allowing the student to make up tests or assignments missed for pregnancy-related absences;
    • Offering remote learning options when available and appropriate;
    • Not academically penalizing for medically necessary absences (this must be granted, irrespective of classroom attendance requirements set by a faculty member or department) and/or offering the student the ability to make up academic attendance credits;
    • Granting a leave of absence per Fitchburg State’s ‘Voluntary, University Initiated Withdrawal Policy’ OR implementing incomplete grades for classes that will be resumed as a future date; 
    • Allowing breastfeeding students reasonable time and space to pump breast milk in private, clean, and reasonably accessible Lactation Rooms, which may be accessed by Contacting the Office of Human Resources.

Students may seek assistance from the Title IX Coordinator for the above accommodations. Fitchburg State will treat pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions in the same manner as temporary disabilities. This means the pregnant students will be treated by Fitchburg State the same as a student who is experiencing a temporary disability, and will receive similar options and resources. The University may require a pregnant student or student who has given birth to submit medical certification for participation in any program only if the program also requires such certification from all students with other conditions requiring the attention of a physician. Options for online course completion, make-up assignments, and extended deadlines will be employed similar to how they are utilized with students experiencing other temporary medical conditions.

Information about pregnant students’ requests for accommodations will be kept private and only shared with faculty and staff to the extent necessary to provide the reasonable accommodations or accommodations to the students’ schedule. Any Fitchburg State employee who receives this information will regard it as private and will not disclose the information unless necessary. The Title IX Coordinator takes responsibility for the appropriate documentation of reasonable accommodations under this policy.

Students are encouraged to communicate with their faculty members and relevant individuals listed in Section 1C of this Policy to determine a plan for how best to address conditions as pregnancy progresses, anticipate any changes to reasonable accommodations and effectively remain on track with academic progress as comfortably as possible. The Title IX Coordinator will assist with plan development and implementation as needed.

As long as students can maintain appropriate academic progress, Fitchburg State does not require students experiencing pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions to take a leave of absence, limit their academic course load, or withdraw. Pregnant and parenting students needing a short term leave of absence may do so by working with the Title IX Coordinator and/or Office of Student Affairs. Students needing a short-term leave of absence under this Policy are asked to provide notice of their intent to take leave as soon as practicable, so the University may work with them to make appropriate arrangements for their leave and return. Students who are not the birth parent may also be granted a leave of absence.

Students who will be out for an extended period may withdraw under the University’s ‘Voluntary, University Initiated Withdrawal Policy’ that addresses medical leaves of absence/withdrawals. The student will complete a Withdrawal form through the Office of Student Affairs.  The withdrawal is effective as of the date it is approved and signed by the Office of Student Affairs. Taking an extended leave or withdrawing from the University may have financial implications, as by law, the Financial Aid Office may have to refund certain kinds of aid (government, grants, loans, Fitchburg State scholarships, etc.) to their respective sources if a student is not enrolled at the University. Students should discuss this with the Office of Financial Aid and Office of Student Accounts prior to their extended leave/withdrawal. Students seeking to readmit to the University after an extended leave or withdrawal, should complete a request for readmission through the Registrar’s Office.

To the extent possible, Fitchburg State will take reasonable steps to ensure that students who take a leave under this Policy are able to return to their academic program in the same status as when the leave began, without a tuition and fee penalty or academic penalty. Tuition and Fee penalties do not include regularly scheduled Tuition and Fee increases. Continuation of a students’ scholarships or other similar University-sponsored funding during the leave term will depend on the students’ registration status and the policies governing the scholarships or funding program. Fitchburg State is committed to ensuring that students will not forfeit their future eligibility for scholarships or University-sponsored funding by exercising their rights under this policy.

Students who are employed by Fitchburg State are entitled to protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act. For employment purposes, including any relevant leave or benefits, pregnancy related conditions are treated as any other temporary disability. Students may take a leave of absence from their Fitchburg State positions following applicable policy.  Students who are also full-time or part-time employees should consult with the Title IX Coordinator and the Office of Human Resources to arrange for a medical leave of absence or work-related accommodations as necessary.

  1. Students with child caretaking/parenting responsibilities who wish to remain engaged in their coursework while adjusting their academic responsibilities because of birth or adoption of a child or placement of a foster child may request an academic modification period during the first month(s) from the time the child entered the home. Extensions may be grated when additional time is required by medical necessity of extraordinary caretaking/parenting responsibilities.
  2. During the modification period, the student’s academic requirements will be adjusted and deadlines postponed as appropriate, in collaboration among the Title IX Coordinator and the appropriate academic department(s).
  3. Students seeking a period of modified academic responsibilities may consult with their instructor, department chair, or with the Title IX Coordinator to determine appropriate academic accommodation requests. The Title IX Coordinator will communicate all requests under this policy to students’ relevant faculty, department chairs, and/or directors, and coordinate all accommodation-related efforts with the academic department unless the students specifically requests otherwise.  Students are encouraged to work with their advisors and faculty members to reschedule course assignments, projects, examinations, or other requirements, and/or to reduce their overall course load, as appropriate, once authorization is received from the Title IX Coordinator. If, for any reason, caretaking/parenting students are not able to work with their faculty members to obtain appropriate modifications, students should alert the Title IX Coordinator as soon as possible, who will help facilitate needed accommodations and modifications.
  4. Students can request modified academic responsibilities under this policy regardless of whether they elect to take a leave of absence or withdrawal.
  5. While receiving academic modifications, students will remain registered and retain benefits accordingly.

Title IX specifically prohibits discrimination against or harassment of students who are pregnant, have just given birth, or have pregnancy-related medical conditions such as false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, recovery from any of these conditions, or those who take a leave of absence due to birth or adoption of a child. Fitchburg State prohibits discrimination on these basis in the University’s System Equal Opportunity Plan. Prohibition of harassment and/or discrimination applies to all classes, co-curricular programs, opportunities for student leadership, or other aspects of the University’s education program and activities. Retaliation is also probated by the Equal Opportunity Plan. Any student who believes that they have experienced harassment or discrimination because they are pregnant, have pregnancy-related conditions, or have taken or sought a parental leave should contact the Title IX Coordinator.

3. Application of Policy

This policy is effective December 2021. The university reserves the right to make changes to this Policy as necessary, and once those changes are posted online, they are in effect. The policy will be reviewed and updated biennially by the Title IX Coordinator.

Inquiries about the application of Title IX at Fitchburg State may be referred to Fitchburg State’s Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. Questions about this policy or reports of potential violations of this policy may be made at any time, including outside of business hours, to:

Rebecca Newell
Director of Title IX and Equal Opportunity

In addition to reporting to the Title IX Coordinator, students may file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) within the Department of Education.

Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Headquarters
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-1100
Customer Service Hotline: 800.421.3481
Facsimile: 202.453.6012
TDD # 877.521.2172

Office for Civil Rights, Massachusetts Office
33 Arch Street, 9th Floor
Boston, MA 02119-1424
Telephone: 617.289.0111
Facsimile: 617.289.0150
TDD # (877) 521.2172