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U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights Announces Resolution of Pregnancy Discrimination Investigation of Hinds Community College

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The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) today announced that the Hinds Community College in Mississippi entered into a resolution agreement to address a student’s pregnancy discrimination complaint.

OCR determined that the college violated Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 after investigating allegations that Hinds Community College failed to provide a pregnant student with necessary academic adjustments or necessary services during and after her pregnancy. OCR also determined that the college violated Title IX in its response to the student’s complaints of pregnancy discrimination and harassment. Additionally, OCR identified a compliance concern related to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504) that the college did not consider whether the student’s pregnancy complications constituted a temporary disability.

The student informed college staff of her pregnancy at the beginning of what should have been her final semester at the college. Throughout the semester, she repeatedly asked for academic adjustments that would allow her to occasionally leave instruction a few minutes early for pregnancy-related medical appointments, remotely attend a lecture while hospitalized for pregnancy-related conditions, and take breaks to express milk after delivering her child.

The college had no process in place to respond to the student’s requests, nor did the college recognize pregnancy and related conditions as Title IX matters. The student developed complications resulting in the premature birth of her baby. Rather than providing academic adjustments as required under Title IX, or considering whether the student’s pregnancy had caused a temporary disability and working with the student to provide necessary academic adjustments under Section 504, college staff members encouraged the student to withdraw from the semester and consider finishing the program later. As a result of the college’s failures, the student was relegated, at times, to pumping in a restroom.

Following the semester, the student filed a Title IX complaint based on the lack of adjustments as well as alleged harassment and discrimination by college staff. OCR found that the college failed to respond to the student’s complaint consistent with Title IX at every turn. Upon the student’s report of harassment and discrimination, the college failed to provide information to the student about how to file a formal complaint and regarding supportive measures. The college also failed to fulfill its Title IX obligations during its investigation of the student’s complaint. The college failed to provide the student with an opportunity to inspect and review evidence and appeal rights. OCR also identified a concern about the sufficiency of the college’s Title IX investigation because it did not interview key witnesses.

The college agreed to take specific actions to resolve this investigation and signed an agreement memorializing that commitment. “We look forward to working with Hinds Community College – the largest community college in Mississippi – to ensure that it provides pregnant students’ equal access to the programs and educational opportunities the college offers,” said Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon.

The college’s commitments in the voluntary resolution agreement include:

  • Revising its nondiscrimination notice, Title IX policies and grievance procedures to comply with Title IX;
  • Publishing information on its website for pregnant students about their Title IX rights and how to seek academic adjustments, special services, or excused absences;
  • Training its Title IX coordinator and other school employees involved in addressing Title IX requests from pregnant students regarding Title IX’s and Section 504’s protections for pregnant students and the academic adjustments and special services available to pregnant students;
  • Tracking and documenting requests by pregnant students to ensure pregnancy-related adjustments are being provided; and
  • Taking other measures to directly remedy the discrimination against the student.

The letter to Hinds Community College and the resolution agreement are available on the Office for Civil Rights website.

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