The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has submitted a pamphlet to school districts around the nation explaining the rights guaranteed to pregnant high school students (as well as high school students with young children) under Title IX, a portion of 1972 law that prohibits educational institutions from discriminating against females.
Among the throng of guaranteed rights is the right to participate at any time in all extracurricular activities including interscholastic sports. The Department of Education’s Title IX regulations explicitly forbid “discrimination against a student based on pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery from any of these conditions.”
Thus, the Department of Education is mandating that pregnant high school girls must be allowed on the girls diving team and hockey teams. The same goes for shot-putting, pole vaulting and waddling around the track.
“Schools cannot require a pregnant student to produce a doctor’s note in order to stay in school or participate in activities, including interscholastic sports, unless the same requirement to obtain a doctor’s note applies to all students being treated by a doctor,” department bureaucrats advise in the pamphlet.
The rule against seeking doctor’s notes from pregnant students plainly applies even in the latest stages of pregnancy.
“Schools may implement special instructional programs or classes for a pregnant student,” the pamphlet adds, “but participation must be completely voluntary on the part of the student, and the programs and classes must be comparable to those offered to other students.”
The pamphlet, smartly called “Supporting the Academic Success of Pregnant and Parenting Students Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972,” contains 34 pages and no fewer than 38 endnotes. Its rules and regulations also apply to college students who become pregnant.
“Although this pamphlet focuses on secondary schools, the underlying legal principles apply to all recipients of federal financial assistance, including postsecondary institutions,” it reads.
A “Dear Colleague” letter dated June 25, 2013 from Seth Galanter, an acting assistant secretary for civil rights, explains that it is forcing schools to allow extremely pregnant students to participate in extracurricular activities including every sport because too few Americans are prepared for college.
“[W]e must support pregnant and parenting students so that they can stay in school and complete their education, and thereby build better lives for themselves and their children,” Galanter insists.
The letter points to studies suggesting that one-third of females who drop out of public high schools attribute much of their decision to their new parental responsibilities. “And, only 51 percent of young women who had a child before age 20 earned their high school diploma by age 22.”
The higher education prospects for women who bear children as teenagers are dismal.
“Only two percent of young women who had a child before age 18 earned a college degree by age 30,” Galanter’s letter notes.
Neither the Department of Education pamphlet nor Galanter explains how allowing high school girls to play contact sports while pregnant will increase graduation rates.
The current consensus about sports among medical professionals appears to be about what you’d expect: many types of exercise are good but the second and third trimesters are substantially different than the first trimester.
“It is safe, and highly recommended, to exercise during pregnancy,” explains board-certified obstetrician Michele Hakakha at Parents.com. “There are multiple health benefits for both mom and baby, including decreasing overall weight gain, improved self-image, decreasing the risk of gestational diabetes and low back pain, as well as a reduction in labor and delivery time.”
“There are certain exercises and sports, however, that should be avoided during pregnancy, particularly during the second and third trimesters,” Dr. Hakakha counsels.
Among those sports are volleyball, softball and hockey, says Hakakha.
Similarly, an article at health-information provider WebMD cautions that some athletic activities “can be harmful if performed during pregnancy.” Those activities include “holding your breath,” “contact sports such as softball, football, basketball and volleyball,” “activities that require extensive jumping, hopping, skipping, bouncing or running” and “heavy exercise spurts followed by long periods of no activity.”
Freelance journalist Brian Koenig contributed immensely to this piece.