Concord School District proposes policy support students who are pregnant or parenting

Monitor staff
Published: 3/24/2021 5:24:40 PM

Next month, pregnant or parenting students in Concord public schools may be getting codified guidelines protecting them from discrimination, and guaranteeing them supports to help access learning.

The school board plans to vote April 5 on the proposed policy, which lays out guidelines that would ensure the protection and equal treatment of pregnant students, students who are parents and students with “pregnancy-related conditions” such as abortion, pseudocyesis (“false pregnancy”) or health issues connected to pregnancy.

“The student pregnancy policy has gone through significant revisions as we’ve prepared to submit it to the board for the first reading,” board member Gina Cannon said at the board’s March meeting. “I think it’s come a long way in providing support and positive language to help support our students who are going through ... this process while they are trying to be students.”

The policy, which has been in the works since November, is a new one for the district. It was developed in the Board’s Communications and Policy Committee with Title IX coordinator Karen Fischer-Anderson, and the full board did the first reading of the policy March 1. The second reading and the vote will happen April 5.

Pregnancy discrimination falls under sex discrimination and is therefore banned in federally-funded educational settings under Title IX, and is prohibited under state law. In Concord’s proposed policy, the district says it is “committed to supporting pregnant and parenting students so that they can continue to pursue their studies, enjoy equal access to all school programs and activities ... and successfully graduate.”

The proposed policy covers pregnant and parenting students – including student mothers and fathers –– and says their parental status shouldn’t impact their participation in AP classes, extracurricular, interscholastic sports, honor societies, or student leadership.

The policy would require the school district to provide “reasonable accommodations,” to protect the student and the pregnancy if requested, offering things like accessible seating, extended deadlines on assignments, remote learning options, permission to stay away from hazardous substances, and a clean, private space for pumping breast milk.

“The building principal may require a physician’s statement as to any activity limitations,” the policy reads. “However, the district shall not require a physician’s note where one would not be required for students with other temporary medical conditions.”

Fischer-Anderson told committee members in a January meeting that Concord nurses do referrals for pregnant students to nutrition counseling, pre-natal care and daycare. She said the district doesn’t make referrals related to abortion or birth control.

One question that board members discussed in committee meetings, is when the district should keep a student pregnancy confidential and when it must inform other parties, like parents or a government agency.

The final version of the policy states that if the pregnant student is under age 16 (the age of consent for sexual contact in New Hampshire) the school is required to inform the state health department’s Division for Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). When the pregnant student is over 16 but still a minor, the school may still need to inform state social service agencies if there is reason to believe the situation involved abuse.

According to the policy, the schools will decide on a case-by-case basis whether to inform families, after taking all pertinent information into consideration.

Board members will do a second reading and vote on the policy on April 5. At the same meeting, the school board will also vote on a policy that establishes guidelines for the district to address the needs of transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Eileen O

Eileen O'Grady is a Report for America corps member covering education for the Concord Monitor since spring 2020. O’Grady is the former managing editor of Scope magazine at Northeastern University in Boston, where she reported on social justice issues, community activism, local politics and the COVID-19 pandemic. She is a native Vermonter and worked as a reporter covering local politics for the Shelburne News and the Citizen. Her work has also appeared in The Boston Globe, U.S. News & World Report, The Bay State Banner, and VTDigger. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Northeastern University and a bachelor’s degree in politics and French from Mount Holyoke College, where she served as news editor for the Mount Holyoke News from 2017-2018.

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