Friday, July 19, 2013

Dear Colleague letter re: pregnant and parenting students

At the end of June, the Department of Education released a Dear Colleague letter and accompanying pamphlet informing schools about their requirements, under Title IX, to support pregnant and parenting students. Study data reveal that over a quarter of male and female parents cite parenthood as a major factor in their decision to drop out of school and when looking at just young women, that number rises to about a third. The effects of young parenthood are seen most drastically in higher education where only 2% of women who had a child before the age 18 earn a college degree before they turn 30.
The (34-page) pamphlet emphasizes previously made points--schools cannot deter pregnant and parenting students from attending classes, extracurricular activities, or mandate participation in established "alternatives." Additionally, alternative programs must meet the same standards and have a similar range of opportunities as traditional schools. Pregnancy must be treated as other medical leave situations, which means students returning after this leave have the same academic and extracurricular status.
There is a very helpful FAQ section addressing issues like individual teachers' attendance policies, what policies and procedures schools must have in place to be in compliance, and how to file a complaint. 
The pamphlet also provides administrators and educators strategies for assisting pregnant and parenting students to ensure that these students satisfactorily complete their educations. They are divided by position (administrator, teacher, counselor) and many include pro-active strategies for retention, facilities, and policies, as well as post-birth and post-dropout outreach.