In April OCR announced the resolution of a pregnancy discrimination complaint at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. OCR found that the college violated Title IX in two ways: first, it failed to properly support the student with services and academic adjustments during and after pregnancy; and second, the school’s response to the student’s complaints of pregnancy discrimination was insufficient. OCR also identified a compliance concern regarding the college’s failure to consider whether the student’s complications from pregnancy constituted a disability under Section 504.

The adjustments requested by the student had included sometimes leaving class early for pregnancy-related medical appointments, attending a lecture remotely while hospitalized, and taking breaks to express milk.

The student’s discrimination complaint included inappropriate comments by an instructor who referred to the student’s unborn child as a “parasite” and emailed other staff complaining about the number and length of breaks complainant received to express milk. The instructor also marked the student as absent for missing 20 minutes of a meeting while in the hospital.

The college’s Title IX policies, procedures, other resources (pamphlets, booklets) and website (including posted training materials) did not reference pregnancy discrimination, and OCR found that the college did not treat the complainant’s requests as Title IX-related, or the complaints as Title IX-related. Regardless, the student filed a Title IX complaint, and the college then initiated an investigation. At that point administrators had been aware of the concerns for at least three (3) months.

The resolution agreement here includes revising the nondiscrimination notice, publishing information about pregnant students and their rights on the Title IX website, training employees on their obligations (and training assessment), tracking requests by pregnant students to ensure compliance with obligations, and of course individual remedies for the student complainant.

This matter is a good prompt for professionals to review their training for employees and students, Title IX website, policies, and procedures to ensure that there is information about pregnancy and the rights and resources available to students. Also consider studying your training effectiveness and adjusting training content, settings, or other factors to aim to improve the results.

The letter to Hinds is here and the resolution is here. OCR guidance and resources include this resource from 2022 and this guide from 2013.

Grand River Solutions offers open training on pregnancy and GRS experts frequently speak about pregnant and parenting students at conferences, including recently at the UVM Legal Issues in Higher Education Conference, the Stetson Annual National Conference on Higher Education Law & Policy, and NASPA Region II Annual Conference