North Arkansas is committed to creating and maintaining a community where all individuals enjoy freedom from discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of sex, as mandated by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). Sex discrimination, which can include discrimination based on pregnancy, marital status, or parental status, is prohibited and illegal in admissions, educational programs and activities, hiring, leave policies, employment policies, and health insurance coverage. Northark hereby establishes a policy and associated procedures for ensuring the protection and equal treatment of pregnant individuals, persons with pregnancy related conditions and new parents.
Under the Department of Education’s (DOE) Title IX regulations, an institution that receives federal funding “shall not discriminate against any student, or exclude any student from its education program or activity, including any class or extracurricular activity, on basis of such student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, or recovery therefrom.” According to the DOE, appropriate treatment of a pregnant student includes granting the student leave “for so long a period of time as is deemed medically necessary by the student’s physician,” and then effectively reinstating the student to the same status as was held when leave began.
This generally means that pregnant students should be treated by Northark the same way as someone who has temporary disability, and will be given opportunity to make up missed work wherever possible. Extended deadlines, make-up assignments (e.g., papers, quizzes, tests, and presentations), tutoring, independent study, online course completion options, and incomplete grades that can be completed at a later date, should all be employed, in addition to ant other ergonomic and assistive supports typically provided by Disability Services. To the extent possible, Northark will take reasonable steps to ensure that pregnant students who take a leave of absence or medical leave return to the same3 course catalog that was in place when the leave began. The Title IX Coordinator has the authority to determine that such accommodations are necessary and appropriate, and to inform faculty members of the need to adjust academic parameters accordingly.
As with disability accommodations, information about pregnant students’ requests for accommodations will be shared with faculty and staff only to the extent necessary to provide the reasonable accommodation. Faculty and staff will regard all information associated with such requests as private and will not disclose this information unless necessary. Administrative responsibility for these accommodations lies with the Title IX Coordinator, who will maintain all appropriate documentation related to accommodations.
In situations such as clinical rotations, performances, labs, and group work, the institution will work with the student to devise an alternative path to completion, if possible. In progressive curricular and or cohort-model programs, medically necessary leaves are sufficient cause to permit students to shift course order, substitute similar courses, or join a subsequent cohort when returning from leave.
Students are encouraged to work with their faculty members and Northark’s support systems to devise a plan for how to best address the conditions as pregnancy progresses, anticipates the need for leaves, minimize the academic impact of their absence, and get back on track as efficiently and comfortably as possible. The Title IX Coordinator will assist with plan development and implementation as needed.
- Caretaking: caring for and providing for the needs of a child.
- Medical Necessity: a determination made by a health care provider (of the student’s choosing) that a certain course of action is in the patient’s best health interest.
- Parenting: the raising of a child by the child’s parents in the reasonably immediate post-partum period.
- Pregnancy and Pregnancy Related Conditions: include (but are not limited to) pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, conditions arising in connection with pregnancy, and recovery from any of these conditions.
- Pregnancy Discrimination: includes treating an individual affected by pregnancy or a pregnancy related condition less favorably than similar individuals not so affected, and includes a failure to provide legally mandated leave or accommodations.
- Pregnant Student/Birth Parent: refers to the student who is or was pregnant. This policy and its pregnancy related protections apply to all pregnant persons, regardless of gender identity or expression.
- Reasonable Accommodations: (for purposes of this policy) changes in the academic environment or typical operations that enable pregnant students or students with pregnancy-related conditions to continue to pursue their studies and enjoy equal benefits of Northark.
REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION OF STUDENTS AFFECTED BY PREGNANCY, CHILDBIRTH, OR RELATED CONDITIONS
- Northark and its faculty, staff, and other employees will not require students to limit their studies as the result of pregnancy or pregnancy related conditions.
- The benefits and services provided to students affected by pregnancy will be no less than those provided to students with temporary medical conditions.
- Students with pregnancy related disabilities, like any student with a short term or temporary disability, are entitled to reasonable accommodations so that they will not be disadvantaged in their courses of study or research, and may seek assistance from the Title IX office.
- No artificial deadlines or time limitations will be imposed on requests for accommodations, but Northark is limited in its ability to impact or implement accommodations retroactively.
- Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:
- Providing accommodations requested by a pregnant student to protect the health and safety of the student and or pregnancy (such as allowing the student to maintain a safe distance from hazardous substances);
- Making modifications to the physical environment (such as seating);
- Providing mobility support;
- Extending deadlines and/or allowing the student to make up tests or assignments missed for pregnancy related absences;
- Offering remote learning options;
- Excusing medically necessary absences (this must be granted, irrespective of classroom attendance requirements set by a faculty member, department, or division);
- Granting leave per Northark’s medical leave policy or implementing incomplete grades that will be resumed at a future date; or
- Allowing breastfeeding students reasonable time and space to pump breastmilk in a location that is private, clean, and reasonably accessible. Bathroom stalls do not satisfy this requirement.
Nothing in this policy requires modification to the essential elements of any academic program. Pregnant students cannot be channeled into an alternative program or school against their wishes.
MODIFIED ACADEMIC RESPONSIBILITIES FOR PARENTING STUDENTS
- Students with parenting responsibilities who wish to remain engaged in their coursework while adjusting their academic responsibilities because of the birth or adoption of a child or placement of a foster care child may request an academic modification period by medical necessity or extraordinary parenting responsibilities.
- During the modification period, the student’s academic requirements will be adjusted and deadlines postponed as appropriate, in collaboration among the Title IX office, the student’s academic advisor, and the appropriate academic department(s).
- Students seeking a period of modified academic responsibilities may consult with their academic advisor or with the Title IX office to determine appropriate academic accommodations requests. The Title IX office will communicate all requests under this policy to students’ academic advisors and coordinate accommodation related efforts with the advisors unless the students specifically request that their advisors be excluded. Students are encouraged to work with their advisors and faculty members to reschedule course assignments, lab hours, examinations, or other requirements, and/or to reduce their overall course load, as appropriate once authorization is received from the Title IX office. If for any reason, parenting students are not able to work with their advisors/faculty members to obtain appropriate modifications, students should alert the Title IX office as soon as possible, and the office will help facilitate needed accommodations and modifications.
- In timed degree, certification or credentialing programs, students who seek modifications upon the birth or placement of their child will be allowed an extension based on medical necessity to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations, and normative time to degree while in candidacy, to the extent those deadlines are controlled by Northark. Longer extensions may be granted in extenuating circumstances.
- Students can request modified academic responsibilities under this policy regardless of whether they elect to take a leave of absence.
- While receiving academic accommodations, students will remain registered and retain benefits accordingly.
LEAVE OF ABSENCE
- As long as students can maintain appropriate academic progress, faculty, staff, or other Northark employees will not require them to take a leave of absence, or withdraw from or limit their studies as the result of pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions, but nothing in this policy requires modification of the essential elements of any academic program.
- Enrolled students may elect to take a leave of absence with medical documentation because of pregnancy and/or the birth, adoption, or placement of a child. The leave term may be extended in the case of extenuating circumstances or medical necessity.
- Students taking a leave of absence under this policy will provide notice of intent to take leave 30 calendar days prior to initiation of leave, or as soon as practicable.
- Intermittent leave may be taken with the advance approval of the Title IX office and students’ academic department(s) when medically necessary.
- Students who elect to take leave under this policy may register under an (inactive/”on leave” etc. status) to continue their eligibility for certain benefits.
- To the extent possible Northark will take reasonable steps to ensure that upon return from leave, students will be reinstated to their program in the same status as when the leave began, with no tuition penalty.
- Continuation of students’ scholarship, fellowship, or similar Northark sponsored funding during the leave term will depend on the student’s registration status and the policies of the funding program regarding registration status. Students will not be negatively impacted by or forfeit their future eligibility for their scholarship, fellowship, or similar Northark supported funding by exercising their rights under this policy.
- The Title IX office can and will advocate for students with respect to financial aid agencies and external scholarship providers in the event that a leave of absence places eligibility into question.
RETALIATION AND HARASSMENT
- Harassment of any member of the Northark community based on sex, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, or parental status is prohibited.
- Faculty, staff, and other Northark employees are prohibited from interfering with students’ right to leave, seek reasonable accommodation, or otherwise exercise their rights under this policy.
- Faculty, staff, and other Northark employees are prohibited from retaliating against students for exercising the rights articulated by this policy. Including imposing or threatening to impose negative educational outcomes because students request leave or accommodation, file a complaint, or otherwise their rights under this policy.