Pregnant student discriminated against at Utah community college, Department of Education rules

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The U.S. Department of Education and a community college in Utah have reached a resolution regarding a student’s pregnancy discrimination complaint.

After a lengthy investigation, Salt Lake Community College was found to have violated the rights of a pregnant student when it failed to “promptly and equitably” respond to a complaint she filed against a professor nor did it accommodate her pregnancy with “academic adjustments or necessary services,” according to the press office of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR).

The student’s redacted and published complaint, which is numbered 08-22-2021, alleged that Salt Lake Community College discriminated against her in three areas.

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First, the complaint stated a professor at the college encouraged her to drop a course and “accept responsibility for her pregnancy.” The student reported the conduct to the school’s Title IX Coordinator alleging she was being discriminated against based on her sex, but the coordinator didn’t respond in a quick or even-handed manner.  

Second, the student’s complaint alleged Salt Lake Community College “did not engage in an interactive process” with her report and neglected to provide academic adjustments or related services during her pregnancy, which the college typically provides to students with temporary medical conditions.

Third, the complaint said the college didn’t grant excused absences for the student’s pregnancy-related absences. Staff also didn’t allow her to submit makeup work or provide alternative assignments after these absences with the professor she reported, according to the complaint.

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Even though the OCR investigation revealed that the Title IX Coordinator at Salt Lake Community College spoke and emailed the student about grantable academic adjustments, the coordinator noted that “they were not without limit,” according to a letter the department sent to the school’s president on Tuesday, June 14.

Salt Lake Community College is a public two-year institution located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
(Google Maps)

The OCR found Salt Lake Community College violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

– Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX): Prohibits sex-based discrimination in any academic program or activity that receives federal financial assistance. The title applies to sex-based protected classes, which include pregnancy, sexual orientation and gender identity.

– Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504): Prohibits discrimination against disability in academic and workforce organizations that receive federal financial assistance. Section 504 applies to disabled parties and is meant to protect “qualified individuals with disabilities” by ensuring they’re not excluded or denied access to program benefits and services.

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The OCR published a resolution agreement it reached with Salt Lake Community College, which states the school will submit a “department rule” that’ll serve as an interim revision to its Nondiscrimination Statement by Wednesday, June 22.

Title IX was established to protect students from sex-based discrimination from public academic institutions. This includes pregnant students who are working toward diplomas, degrees or certificates.

Title IX was established to protect students from sex-based discrimination from public academic institutions. This includes pregnant students who are working toward diplomas, degrees or certificates.
(iStock)

Salt Lake Community College is voluntarily revising its non-discrimination notice; publishing resources for pregnant students on their Title IX rights; training its Title IX coordinator, Disabilities Resource Center staff and general school employees about protections for pregnant students; completing and documenting its investigation of the student’s original pregnancy discrimination complaint; and taking measures to “remedy the discrimination” the pregnant student faced.

A finalized Nondiscrimination Statement that’s in accordance with Title IX will be published by July 31, 2023 along with grievance procedures, according to the department’s reporting requirements.

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“We look forward to working with Salt Lake Community College to promote a nondiscriminatory educational environment by ensuring pregnant students’ equal access to the college’s offerings,” said Catherine E. Lhamon, the Department of Education’s assistant secretary for civil rights, in a statement. 

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was established to protect students and workers with disabilities from discriminatory acts in public academic institutions and workforce organizations. This includes pregnant students who are enrolled in schools that receive federal aid.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 was established to protect students and workers with disabilities from discriminatory acts in public academic institutions and workforce organizations. This includes pregnant students who are enrolled in schools that receive federal aid.
(iStock)

“As we approach the 50th anniversary of Title IX next week, Salt Lake Community College’s commitments today take an important step to provide [all students] equal access to education Congress has promised these 50 years,” Lhamon continued.

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Fox News Digital reached out to Salt Lake Community College for comment.

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