A new set of guidelines issued by the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education to districts around the country now prohibit schools from limiting the participation in extracurricular activities among students who are pregnant or have children. The prohibition applies to sports as well.
Eric Owens of the Daily Caller reports that the guidelines, based on 1972's Title IX legislation that prohibits discrimination in student activities based on gender, say that schools cannot require students who are pregnant, have terminated a pregnancy or are recovering from pregnancy to provide a note from a medical professional that clears them to participate unless schools also seek such clearances from students afflicted with other medical conditions. The schools also cannot force students to abstain from physical activity even if it's widely considered medically inadvisable.
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."
According to Owens, the booklet containing the guidelines that apply not only to high schools but also colleges, runs to 34 pages and contains 38 endnotes. Acting assistant secretary for civil rights Seth Galanter explains that the guidelines were issued because keeping teen parents and pregnant teens on their regular academic track is the best way to assure that they complete their education, thus expanding their own economic opportunities and guaranteeing a brighter future for themselves and their kids.
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.
While some might argue that limiting the schools' ability to play doctor is a good thing, in general keeping pregnant students from participating in certain activities makes good medical sense. Board-certified obstetrician Michele Hakakha notes that while exercise during pregnancy is, on the whole, a positive thing, sports like hockey and volleyball should be avoided for the health of both mother and baby, especially during the second and third trimesters.