OKLAHOMA CITY – While women are protected from various types of discrimination throughout their education under Title IX, Sen. Mary Boren says the law needs to be stronger to protect expecting mothers in Oklahoma’s colleges and universities. The Norman Democrat has filed Senate Bill 138 to 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.
“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,” Boren said. “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.”
SB 138 would require all higher education institutions in Oklahoma, whether public or private, to reasonably accommodate pregnant students so they can complete their courses of study and research. Such accommodations include 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. The measure would also require schools to maintain written policies for enrolled students on pregnancy discrimination and their rights.
Under the bill, students who opt for a leave of absence due to a pregnancy or recent birth 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. Schools would also be required 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. The Office of Civil Rights Enforcement within the Attorney General’s office would be tasked with investigating complaints of student pregnancy discrimination.
“I know so many stories of young women whose financial aid, scholarships and housing were compromised because of an unexpected pregnancy,” Boren said. “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.”
For more information contact: Sen. Boren: (405) 521-5553 or Mary.Boren@oksenate.gov
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