The Cougar Chronicle

Attorney shares information on pregnant student accommodations

In+the+Gender+Equity+Center+students+talk+about+the+experience+of+being+pregnant+in+college+on+Oct.+25.
In the Gender Equity Center students talk about the experience of being pregnant in college on Oct. 25.

In the Gender Equity Center students talk about the experience of being pregnant in college on Oct. 25.

Photo by Abby Costelow

Photo by Abby Costelow

In the Gender Equity Center students talk about the experience of being pregnant in college on Oct. 25.

Antonio Pequeño IV, News Editor

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The Gender Equity Center hosted a discussion about the nuances of pregnancy and lactation rights given to college students under Title IX.

 

Jessica Lee, a staff attorney at the Center for WorkLife Law at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, was the guest speaker for the discussion. The Center for WorkLife Law operates The Pregnant Scholar initiative. Through her work for the center and the initiative, Lee advises universities on gender equality within the educational field and workplace..

 

She began the discussion by explaining Title IX pregnancy protections. Title IX is a federal law that according to the U.S. Department of Education, states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

 

Lee explained that discrimination based on sex includes pregnancy and physical conditions related to it such as childbirth, abortion, miscarriage, recovery and similar matters. She then addressed what pregnant women go through like gestational diabetes, morning sickness,carpal tunnel and other medical conditions that affect their class participation.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re pregnant… We’re trying to push back on that and realize that the systems we have in place were built for a healthy person who is typically a cisgender male who doesn’t have all of these other things going on,” said Lee.

 

Lee said that students are entitled to as much leave as medically necessary and when they return, they are reinstated to their normal enrollment status and given time to make up any credit or work within a class.

 

She then discussed differences in pregnancy experiences and that those differences among women still grant them protections. Lee said, “Some people may need months… Some people may come back at six weeks and realize they have really bad postpartum depression and [that] they need more time… [if it’s] pregnancy related you’re entitled to that medically necessary leave.”

 

The matter of equal representation for fathers during post-pregnancy caretaking was discussed.

Lee said, “there are a lot of schools that will give caretaking leave for a mom but not a dad… that would be a Title IX violation because it’s not about what’s going on with [a mother] physically, it’s about the caretaking [which] has to be given without regard to gender.”

 

Lisa Bandong, the internship coordinator for the Masters of Public Health program at CSUSM talked about the level of awareness surrounding pregnancy and breastfeeding accommodations on campus. She said that even as awareness spreads around campus, one still might find people at the university that lack information on protections or have misconceptions on the extent of the accommodations that should be given to pregnant women.

 

Natalie Morales, a student who attends the CSUSM Temecula campus, shared that the campus has no lactation rooms. When Morales needed a place for lactation purposes, she cycled through different offices, classrooms or her car due to the absence of a designated lactation space. Morales asked Lee if the campus is required to have a lactation space.

 

Lee said that at the moment, there is no requirement for California Community Colleges or the CSU to provide rooms for lactation. She added that there was currently a bill that would fix the issue. Approved by Governor Jerry Brown on Sept. 30, 2018, Assembly Bill No. 2785 requires that California Community Colleges and the CSU must provide lactation spaces and further lactation accommodations no later than Jan. 1, 2020.

 

CSUSM’s San Marcos campus currently has four designated lactation rooms located in USU 3200, Craven 6312, Kellogg 2107 and Kellogg 2121. According to Bandong, the Extended Learning Building that is set to open in fall 2019 will have one lactation room. The room will be CSUSM’s first lactation space to be located within a building that holds classrooms.

 

“Basically this concept of ‘you should accommodate a pregnant student rather than push them out’ is part of the core but also you need to actually inform folks because no one is going to know any of this if you’re not sharing that information,”Lee said.

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