Sen. Mary Boren (D) of Oklahoma recently introduced a bill that would improve Title IX protections for pregnant students.
In an effort to bolster protection from discrimination for expectant mothers in Oklahoma’s universities and colleges, Sen. Mary Boren (D) recently noted Title IX needs to be stronger. As a result, she filed Senate Bill 138 that would require “public and private higher education institutions to offer accommodations for pregnant students such as permitting a leave of absence, and also prohibit colleges from requiring pregnant students to take leaves of absence, withdraw from a program, or otherwise limit their studies solely due to their pregnancies.”
While discussing the proposed bill, Boren said:
“Getting a degree is difficult enough, but for expecting mothers, it can be near impossible. While Title IX extends some protections to pregnant women attending state universities and college, it does not cover the awarding or discontinuing of scholarships for expecting mothers, nor does it include protections of those women’s financial aid or housing…Another problem is that several Oklahoma private schools are exempt from Title IX, yet often the students are receiving state aid or state-funded scholarships. There have been numerous situations where pregnant students at private schools have taken a leave of absence because of their pregnancy or birth, and the schools took away their scholarships or didn’t extend them to allow the student to complete their degree program.”
As part of the bill, higher education institutions throughout Oklahoma, whether they’re private or public, will be required to “reasonably accommodate pregnant students so they can complete their courses of study and research.” These accommodations may include the following, according to the bill: providing allowances for the students’ health and safety, providing make-up tests or assignments, and allowing pregnant students to take a leave of absence without it affecting their transcript, scholarships, research plan, housing or other benefits.
Additionally, schools would have to “maintain written policies for enrolled students on pregnancy discrimination and their rights.” On top of that, when a woman decides to take a leave of absence for the birth of her child or due to pregnancy, they would “be provided one consistent with the school’s policies or 12 months leave, whichever is longer, to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations.” In addition, schools would have to “grant a 12-month extension to such students to complete their degree and must be allowed to maintain residency in student housing during the pregnancy and throughout the leave of absence.” If a pregnant student files a pregnancy discrimination complaint, the Office of Civil Rights Enforcement within the Attorney General’s office would be required to investigate.
“I know so many stories of young women whose financial aid, scholarships, and housing were compromised because of an unexpected pregnancy…We need to support these mothers and provide them whatever exemptions and assistance we can to ensure they have a safe pregnancy and delivery. They should then be able to continue their education when they’re ready with the same scholarships and other assistance they had before their pregnancy.”