Staying in School During Pregnancy: Know Your Rights

What do birth mothers need to know about staying in school while pregnant and their rights? Whether you are in high school, college, or attend a technical school, public and private educational institutions can’t discriminate against you just because you are pregnant. Take a look at what you need to know about pregnancy discrimination, your rights, and your education.


Should You Stay In School While You’re Pregnant?


The answer to this question depends on factors such as your needs, your health, where you live (the state’s compulsory school attendance laws), and your age. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the state of Arizona requires children and teens to attend school from ages 6 through 16 (or complete tenth grade). Other states may have slightly different compulsory age requirements.


If you are younger than 16 (in Arizona) or do not meet your state’s compulsory school law attendance minimum age requirement, you will still need to attend high school while pregnant. But this doesn’t mean you necessarily have to stay in the same school.


If you don’t feel that your current school is the best match for your needs during pregnancy, talk to your adoption counselor and school guidance counselor about alternatives. A private school or online/cyber-only high school may provide the flexibility or supportive environment that you need right now.


If you are in college or a post-high school vocational program, you can also investigate ways to stay in school during your pregnancy. Your college may offer a part-time or reduced credit schedule that makes it easier for you to go to classes. You may also have online or distance learning options that allow you to complete your degree from your home.


Why Should You Stay In School?


Does it seem like dropping out of high school or college will make your pregnancy easier? While school may make it hard for you to work while pregnant or get to your doctor’s appointments, an education provides benefits that you will need down the road. The more education you have, the better equipped you are to start a career.


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that in the year 2022 workers with a high school diploma made an average of $853 per week. Those without a diploma made $682 per week. The median weekly earnings increased for workers with an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, and advanced (master’s, doctoral, or professional degree).


Not only can you make more money with a degree than without one, a high school diploma is a prerequisite for college and a college degree necessary for graduate/professional school.Even though it isn’t easy to attend full-time classes while pregnant, a diploma or degree will help to jump-start your future. This makes it important to stay in school during your pregnancy.


Again, if you don’t feel that this is possible or you have challenges that make it difficult to stay in your current program, talk to your counselor about alternative ways to pursue an education during pregnancy.


Can a School Discriminate Against a Pregnant Person?


No, public and private schools that receive federal funds cannot discriminate against you based on your pregnancy status. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 any school that receives federal funds must allow pregnant women to continue participating in classes. Along with classes, schools that receive federal funds must also allow pregnant women to participate in extracurricular activities, honors classes, honor societies, student leadership programs, school-related clubs, and sports.


If the school does offer a special instructional program specifically for pregnant and parenting women, they can’t force you to participate in the class. In other words, the school can’t move you from your regular high school classes to a program that is only for pregnant students without your consent. Under title IX, school staff members can’t pressure you into switching programs.


Title IX also protects you from harassment at school. According to the U.S. Department of Education, this includes comments made based on your sex or pregnancy, jokes about your pregnancy, rumors about your sexuality, or sexual gestures/propositions that may prevent you from participating in educational or extracurricular school programs.


Can You Miss School Because of Your Pregnancy?


More specifically, can your school kick you out because of your doctor’s appointments or other medical issues? Again, title IX applies to high school and post-secondary public and private schools (colleges, universities, or vocational schools) that receive federal funds. These schools must excuse absences that relate to your pregnancy or childbirth—provided your doctor, midwife, or other similar healthcare professional states that the absence is medically necessary.


If you do need to take time off for medical reasons during your pregnancy or for childbirth, the school must allow you to come back at the same status you left. This means the school must provide you with make-up work or give you the chance to make up anything you missed during your absence.


Do you want to learn more about pregnancy and your adoption options? Contact Arizona Adoption Help for more information.