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University Guidance for Pregnant and Parenting Students

Discrimination based on pregnancy is explicitly prohibited under University Nondiscrimination Policy and Equity Resolution Process.  Reports of pregnancy-based discrimination are subject to the same procedure as reports of any other form of discrimination. 

Terms

Parenting Status” includes medical issues arising from delivery or termination of a pregnancy, and any related health needs, including the need to express milk or lactate.

Discussions of pregnancy and parenting status are often framed as an issue that applies to women and mothers. To proactively include all persons this guidance may apply to, the use of gender-neutral language is encouraged, i.e. parents, students, or employees, as appropriate. The ability to carry a child is associated with numerous anatomical factors and is not specific to a particular gender identity (a person’s internal sense of being male, female, a combination of both, or neither). 

Employees

While, the information in this guidance statement predominately refers to pregnant and parenting students, the Non-Discrimination policy’s prohibition against discrimination based on pregnancy and parenting status applies to all members of the University community: faculty, staff, students, and visitors accessing University programs and services. Laws such as the Fair Labor and Standards Act and the Family Medical Leave Act further articulate the rights of employees with respect to pregnancy and parenting status. Employees with any questions about their rights are strongly encouraged to contact the Employee Relations Manager, Shauntae’ Moham, (405) 208-6330 and smoham@okcu.edu, or the Human Resources department, (405) 208-6315 and hr@okcu.edu

Institutional Access

Generally speaking, pregnant and parenting students enjoy the same rights to access University programs and services as all other members of our community. Decisions about eligibility to engage in certain physical activity, such as athletic programs, performing arts classes, or other University services, should not be based on stereotypes or assumptions about pregnancy and parenting status. Concerns about a student’s ability to safely engage in such programs or activities during or after a pregnancy should be assessed by a trained medical professional.  Documentation from a healthcare provider may be required of pregnant and parenting students when similar documentation is required for other members of our community.

Academic Assistance

Pregnant and parenting students may require certain forms of academic assistance to share the same educational opportunity as their peers. In nearly all such cases, students concerned about the impact of their pregnancy or parenting status on their coursework should contact their course instructor(s) to discuss their particular health needs. Once the student and instructor agree on a reasonable plan, no further action may be needed.  However, instructors are strongly encouraged to communicate the plan via e-mail to the Title IX Coordinator so the plan can be appropriately documented and adhered to, and so the Title IX Coordinator can provide assistance should unforeseen circumstances arise which impact the plan.

In this context, a plan is reasonable when it accounts for both the particular health needs of the student and the requirements of academic rigor of the particular class. The purpose of such a plan is to ensure the student has continued equal access to University programs and services. Pregnant and parenting students should be expected to complete the same or comparable academic work as their peers in order to achieve the same grade.

Individuals will experience different health needs, and different courses may require different plans to ensure the student has the same learning opportunities as their peers. While there is no one-size-fits-all approach, a reasonable plan may include some or all of the following elements: excused absences and late arrivals with an established protocol for making up any missed in-class assignments; providing the student remote access to lectures via Skype or similar; allowing the student additional time to complete timed tests, quizzes, and exams; and being provided alternate exam times should there be a conflict with an unavoidable medical issue such as delivery.

A reasonable plan need not permit a student to bring an infant child to class. Bringing a child to class may create disruption in the learning environment for others. This in no way prevents a course instructor from permitting a student to bring an infant child to class. Instructors are free to exercise their best judgment as they consider such requests.

If the student and the course instructor are not able to decide upon a reasonable plan, each party is strongly encouraged to contact the Title IX Coordinator. The Title IX Coordinator or designee will work with each party to develop and implement a reasonable plan that is sensitive to the academic requirements of the course and the student’s particular health needs. 

Lactation Rooms

Parenting students may need to express milk in campus buildings. The University provides designated spaces on campus for members of our community to safely express milk (lactation rooms). Some on-campus rooms are designated as lactation rooms and are listed on the University’s Title IX website. Other rooms may be used as lactation rooms and coordinated for that purpose on an ad hoc basis in consultation with the appropriate Building Coordinator and Dean/Department Head.

If you are contacted by a member of our community to request the use of a lactation room, you are expected to review the available options for designated lactation rooms with the individual. Should the individual need to use a different room or space on campus, that room may be designated as a lactation room on an ad hoc basis.

It is not appropriate under any circumstances to require a member of our community to express milk in a bathroom. Expressing milk in a bathroom creates an unnecessary risk for disease and poses significant privacy concerns for the individual. In addition, it is not appropriate to require a student to return to their place of residence to express milk. This may actively impede the student’s ability to access University programs and services. These behaviors may contribute to or create a hostile learning/work environment based on pregnancy and/or parenting status and may constitute a violation of University policy.

At a minimum, lactation rooms must be sanitary, private, and functional. Most offices and classrooms would be considered sanitary, while bathrooms would not be considered sanitary. To be considered private, the room must be shielded from view and intrusion. In most cases, this will mean any doors to the room must be able to be locked from the inside, and any windows must be able to be closed or sealed. To be functional, the room must include a chair or other place to sit and a flat surface (other than the floor), such as a table, on which a breast pump and other supplies may be placed.

Lactation rooms should include features such as working electrical outlets, good lighting, proper ventilation, and a comfortable temperature. The department, school, or building should make cleaning supplies including sanitary wipes and paper towels available, either in the lactation room or on request, to ensure ongoing cleanliness.

Ideally, a lactation room would also include a refrigerator, a microwave, a comfortable chair, a table, a clock, a mirror, and a sink. Many offices, classrooms, and conference rooms across campus are not outfitted with these amenities. Should any of these amenities be available in a nearby breakroom or other area, employees are encouraged to allow students using a lactation room to access these amenities as appropriate. 

Procedure to Request an Ad Hoc Lactation Room

To respond to a student’s request for an ad hoc lactation room, there are several steps employees must take. First, if a lactation room is to be designated on an ad hoc basis, please contact the Title IX Coordinator to provide information about the request. Designating an ad hoc lactation room may be considered an interim measure under Title IX. Therefore, you will be required to share identifying information about the individual with the Title IX Coordinator so the request and response are documented appropriately.

Next, the appropriate Dean/Department Head and Building Coordinator should be notified of the request. These personnel will review the request, identify any issues that would need to be addressed in advance, and ensure there is appropriate access to the ad hoc lactation room. Notifying these personnel ensures the lactation room will be available to the student when needed. Particularly when access to an ad hoc lactation room in an academic building is needed outside of standard business hours, notice to the Dean/Department Head and Building Coordinator will ensure the room will be unlocked. The University Police Department may not able to unlock rooms in campus buildings without prior approval from the Dean/Department Head and/or Building Coordinator, so advance planning for access to an ad hoc lactation room is strongly recommended.  

Technical Assistance

If you have questions or concerns about the rights of pregnant and parenting individuals, the University’s Non-Discrimination Policy, or other matters related to preventing or responding to sex discrimination, please contact the Title IX Coordinator, Joey Croslin. Please encourage any students or employees to contact Ms. Croslin to discuss such questions as well. Ms. Croslin can be reached at jcroslin@okcu.edu and (405) 208-5075.