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Pregnant student in Utah told to drop class after asking for accommodations for morning sickness

By Paradise Afshar, CNN

A community college in Salt Lake City, Utah, is being required to revise its practices after a pregnant student was encouraged to drop a class after asking for accommodations as she was dealing with morning sickness, education officials said.

The student filed a complaint with the federal entity, which determined that Salt Lake Community College “violated both Title IX and Section 504 after investigating allegations that the college encouraged a pregnant student to drop a course because she was pregnant, did not engage in an interactive process to provide her with academic adjustments or necessary services during her pregnancy, and did not excuse her pregnancy-related absences or allow her later to submit work following those absences,” according to a media release from the US Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights.

As a result, the school and the US Department of Education have reached an agreement, which requires the college to take steps to ensure it’s in compliance with Title IX and Section 504; both of which are civil rights laws that protect against discrimination.

The resolution agreement requires the school to take actions including “revising its nondiscrimination notice and grievance procedures to comply with Title IX” and “publishing information on its website for pregnant students about their Title IX rights and how to seek academic adjustments, special services, or excused absences,” according to the release.

The school will also be required to train its school employees about Title IX’s and Section 504’s protections for pregnant students, “and the academic adjustments and special services available to pregnant students,” the release said.

In a letter addressed to the president of Salt Lake Community College, Deneece Huftalin, the US Department of Education explains that the student had informed her professor of her pregnancy and “that she was struggling with morning sickness and had missed or been late to some of the professor’s classes as a result.”

The student requested adjustments from the professor “to allow additional absences and the ability to turn in assignments late without a grade penalty due to her nausea, which she told the professor often lasted all day and prohibited her from eating,” the letter said.

“The Complainant explained to OCR that she asked the professor if she could modify the Program’s attendance policy and allow her to turn in assignments late because of her morning sickness, and that the professor responded that she would allow a few additional absences but would apply a grade penalty to late assignments. In addition, the Complainant told OCR that the professor advised her to drop,” the course because of her pregnancy, the letter said.

In a statement to CNN, Salt Lake Community College said it is “dedicated to creating an inclusive, welcoming environment for all students and takes all complaints regarding discrimination seriously.”

“We are working with the US Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights (OCR) to address this complaint and taking concrete steps to ensure reasonable accommodations are made moving forward,” the statement said. “These steps include strengthening internal processes related to investigating complaints, improving student access to Title IX information, and evaluating and fulfilling requests for accommodation. We will also ensure all staff and faculty are properly trained on the procedures that must be followed when working with students in need of accommodation due to pregnancy.”

The college went on to say that it is “committed to strengthening” its processes and “working to ensure that students are treated respectfully, with understanding, and when necessary, offered reasonable accommodations to help them succeed.”

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