Title IX and Pregnant and Parenting StudentsJune 18, 2012
June 23 marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, the landmark law that bans sex discrimination in any educational program that receives federal funding. To celebrate, for the next few weeks we’ll be blogging about the effect Title IX has had over the past four decades, from the many wide-reaching opportunities it has opened up for women and girls to the challenges that still remain in achieving true gender equity in schools.
Did you know that Title IX protects pregnant and parenting students from discrimination? Many people don’t realize that the law ensures that these students have the same rights to continue and finish their high school or college education as other students do.
Yet many schools continue to discriminate against pregnant and parenting students by placing them in separate, often subpar academic programs; enacting policies that treat them differently from other students with medical conditions; and preventing them from participating in after-school activities. In fact, the state departments of education in Georgia and Michigan excluded pregnant and parenting students from participating in homebound instruction until women’s rights advocates stepped in and demanded change — and justice.
This discrimination has harmful effects on students. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that just 50 percent of teen mothers receive high school diplomas by the time they’re 22 years old, compared with 90 percent of women who did not give birth as teenagers. Failure to graduate from high school has lifelong ramifications. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median weekly earnings for a person who has less than a high school diploma is $451, compared with $638 for high school graduates, $768 for people with associate degrees, and $1,053 for four-year college graduates.
Federal policies and proposed legislation are starting to catch up with the realities faced by pregnant and parenting students. A provision in the Affordable Care Act created the Pregnancy Assistance Fund, which provides grants of between $500,000 and $2 million annually through 2019 to help underwrite programs that connect young families with the support services they need. These programs help participants focus on high school graduation, good maternal and child health outcomes, and parenting skills.
In addition, the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act, introduced in the House of Representatives in 2011, would enable the U.S. Department of Education to offer state and local grants for programs that promote education for pregnant and parenting students.
For more information, check out the National Coalition for Women and Girls in Education’s new report, Title IX at 40: Working to Ensure Gender Equity in Education. AAUW is chair of the group. The report examines the impact that Title IX has had on women and girls in several areas of education, including pregnant and parenting students, and calls on policy makers to direct more resources and attention to strengthening Title IX.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy Intern Christina Cann.