Debate Magazine

NWLC's Pregnant and Parenting Students Conference Call

Posted on the 30 August 2011 by Starofdavida
NWLC's Pregnant and Parenting Students Conference CallI recently attended a conferencecall through the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) titled “Know Your Rights: AConference Call for Pregnant and Parenting Students.” It was moderated byMelanie Ross Levin, NWLC’s senior outreach manager, and the two presenters wereJeannette Pai-Espinosa (president of the National Crittenton Foundation) andLara Kaufmann (NWLC’s senior counsel). You can read my full notes here,or listen to the actual call here. In short, the conference call discussed the rights that pregnant and parentingwomen have with regard to education. Lara Kaufmann explained how Title IXprotects students, faculty, and staff at schools with federal funding from sexdiscrimination and how it applies to pregnant and parenting students. Jeannette Pai-Espinosa introduced herorganization, explaining how it provides trauma-informed services to pregnantand parenting women. Afterwards, the two answered questions that participantssent in.I’m not pregnant or parenting,nor do I have any intention to be either while I’m still in school, but Inonetheless found the conference call absolutely fascinating and really enlightening.I knew that Title IX did more than protecting women’s rights in athletics, butI had no idea that it was the basis of pregnant and parenting students’ rightto equal education. It also never occurred to me that a pregnant student shouldbe treated like a student with any other temporary medical condition, sincethat’s in essence what pregnancy is.Ms. Kaufmann mentioned severalcommon violations of Title IX relating to pregnant and parenting students, andanswered many questions about them, too. She stressed the fact that schoolshave to work with pregnant/parenting students in order to best accommodatetheir needs, whether it’s dragging their feet regarding makeup work or properlycounseling students for the future.I was surprised that nobody mentionedthe recent case in Arkansas,where a teen mother who was valedictorian was forced to share the title,presumably because she is a black single parent. On one hand, I can understand thata school wouldn’t what to recognize a pregnant or parenting student (that goesfor girls and boys), since an administration wouldn’t want to seem like it’sencouraging students to have unprotected sex. However, a GPA and subsequenthonor shouldn’t have anything to do with a student’s personal life. Melanie Ross Levin asked all theparticipants in the call to take action to ensure the pregnant and parentingstudents are given the rights they deserve. One way to do this is fororganizations to sign the NWLC petition in support of the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access toEducation Act of 2011. This bill, originally proposed in 2009, will greatlyeven the playing field for pregnant and parenting students. (You can read moreabout it here.)The petition will be sent to the bill’s sponsors, Jared Polis and Judy Chu.Your organization can sign on here.If you don’t have an organization to sign on, you could always write to Reps.Polis and Chu independently.I dedicated one of my first poststo Fraydel bat Faigel zikhrona l’brakha (may her memory be blessed) an amazing womanwho was actually thrown out of law school because she became pregnant (whilemarried, mind you). In previous generations, it was totally accepted foremployers to fire women because they were pregnant. That’s why I think it’s sogreat that pregnant and parenting women have advocates, and are fighting fortheir right to have an education. If women with children can’t get a goodeducation, they can’t get good jobs, and they can’t make great salaries, sothey can’t afford to go back to school, so they can’t get a better job…etc.Isn’t it easier to stop the vicious cycle before it starts?

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