In case you hadn’t noticed, or are brand new to reading my blog, (welcome! I’m super nice) - I am often appalled. It’s just that way. I’m learning to embrace it for the good of the cause. For example, this week one of our clients, who is about to be a junior at Chicago State University, asked my advice on a few educational decisions she’s trying to make. She is due to give birth during the next semester’s finals week and asked her advisor what she should do so that she doesn’t miss her finals. Her advisor told her to drop out for a semester until she had the baby, even though she would lose her much-needed financial aid. The conversation also suggested that being pregnant makes you unable to sit in an undergrad classroom and learn. She wasn’t given any other advice. In my mind, this is how I responded to her story:
But, take heart. I am extremely professional and sensible. I gave her some information from the National Women’s Law Center about her options (thanks for that, Cayce), and told her to Google “Title IX” and learn about her rights concerning pregnancy, gender, and education. And to drop that advisor, get a new one, and tell her professors her situation now, so that they could be accommodating. When I spoke with her today, she said she learned that she could attend community college for a semester, transfer her credits, and not lose her financial aid. This might turn out to be the best, most flexible decision for her. I’m not suggesting that she was denied educational opportunities or money to pursue her education. I’m suggesting that because of a situation relating to gender she was given fewer options than people who are not pregnant. Or female. Still, sometimes I can’t believe the facts of discrimination that so many people have to continue to wade through. I can’t believe I have to drink my morning coffee and hear that pregnancy is still seen as a deterrent to education instead of a natural, powerful, human process. More so, if success is the goal, I can’t believe no one at her school suggested tutors, taking finals early, or online classes.
So, of course, I Regina-ed my way back to my office and comprehensively searched the school’s website for information on pregnant students. None. I almost called the school to ask about their official policies on pregnant students, but decided that it might be a bad idea at that exact moment (please see the above clip). I understand that my mind is sometimes dramatic. I’m pretty sure it’s a byproduct of introversion/reading a ton of confessional poetry. However, I work very hard at making sure my actions are helpful and appropriate. When we talked about the student’s situation as a group, with a few other clients, the consensus among teenagers was to “sue their ass for emotional distress.” I assured them that this wasn’t the best use of our time, and that very good options existed. But, I was a little shocked that so many of them didn’t know, lawfully, how they should be treated and what pertains precisely to their circumstances. Ok, I wasn’t shocked – many of them are battling so many personal issues, demons, medical problems, and educational disparities, that there’s almost no way they could have learned about their rights.
One of my main goals is to be informed and to inform, if appropriate and helpful. Don’t stop reading now because you’re about to get a very brief lesson on Title IX. If you want an even longer lesson, please check out titleix.info. Here are the two things you should know:
1. Title IX, a law passed in 1972, requires gender equity for boys and girls in every educational program that receives federal funding (i.e. A state school).
2. Title IX is discussed a lot in sports circles but it officially applies to the following: access to higher education, career education, education for pregnant and parenting students, employment, learning environment, math and science, sexual harassment, standardized testing, and technology.
So, now, if you or any of your parenting friends find yourself/themselves in such a situation, you have a good, less burn-booky, place to start.