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Schools Must Protect Pregnant Students. Proposed Federal Rules Would Spell Out How



For the first time in nearly 50 years, the U.S. Department of Education plans to explicitly spell out protections for pregnant and parenting students and school employees—an evolution advocates say may be more important than ever in a post-Roe v. Wade world.

The Education Department’s proposed Title IX rules made headlines for their historic protections of LGBTQ students when they were released in June. But they also include clarifications on school officials’ obligations to not discriminate against pregnant and parenting students and employees, adding detail to rules which haven’t been updated since 1975.

The proposed regulations say schools are obligated to ensure that no students who are experiencing those conditions are left out of educational programs and activities. They also provide clearer definitions of pregnancy-related conditions and emphasize that schools must provide modifications for students and employees experiencing those conditions.

They would also explicitly prevent schools from discriminating against students and staff who have sought, received, or are recovering from an abortion, and provide clear rules on how schools can address discrimination against those individuals.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the right to an abortion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the proposed rules have taken on new significance. A group of 60 Democrat congressional lawmakers sent a letter to U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, urging the Education Department to use its authority under Title IX to protect students who are pregnant, have an abortion, or are parenting.

“By striking down nearly 50 years of precedent and paving the way for state laws that criminalize the termination of a pregnancy and have already stripped reproductive freedom from millions of women, the Supreme Court has taken a step toward denying the educational and privacy rights of students nationwide,” the members of Congress, led by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Ore., said in the July 21 letter.

Pregnant and parenting students often face discrimination

Pregnancy and parenting aren’t easy for anyone. For students trying to complete their education, the experiences can be demoralizing, said Joya Cleveland, director of Strong Tomorrows, a program dedicated to providing guidance, support, and services to pregnant and parenting students at Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma.

While 90 percent of women who do not give birth during adolescence graduate from high school, only 50 percent of teen mothers are expected to receive a high school diploma by the time they’re 22 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen parents are even less likely to graduate college, with only about 10 percent of teen moms completing a two- or four-year college degree program, according to, a government website that collects information about youth-related issues and programs from federal agencies.

A variety of factors, such as child-care access, stigma, medical complications, and financial insecurity stand in the way of pregnant and parenting students when trying to finish high school, even though they often find themselves motivated complete their degree, Cleveland said.

“After becoming parents something clicks for them as far as the need to succeed and the desire to want to model for their child, and they become better students,” she said. “They become a better person.”

But without support, like the connections to social workers, parenting classes, access to doctors and college- and career-readiness workshops offered through Strong Tomorrows, Cleveland said students are left facing an uphill battle and are sometimes encouraged to enroll in alternative public schools or to get their GED credential.

The proposed Title IX rules would require school employees to connect pregnant and parenting students with a Title IX coordinator, empowering students with the resources to know their rights. That clarification is huge because one of the main barriers students face is a lack of knowledge about their own protections, said Shiwali Patel, director of justice for student survivors and senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center.

“Many students don’t even know that they are protected under Title IX to begin with,” Patel said. “They wouldn’t even know that they can advocate for themselves and advocate for accommodations and protections in school.”

The law also requires parents of students experiencing pregnancy-related conditions to be notified about their students’ rights, which allows for parents to advocate for students experiencing discrimination, she said.

New definitions for pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions

Since 1975, Title IX has applied to students experiencing pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions, but the current law leaves gaps in its definitions of those conditions.

The Education Department’s proposed definition of “pregnancy-related conditions” includes pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, and lactation. Medical conditions related to pregnancy and the recovery from pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, and lactation would be considered in the definition as well. That means the rules would preventing schools from discriminating against students who experience common conditions like extreme nausea, high blood pressure, and swelling of breast tissue. The new rules would also explicitly prevent schools from discriminating against students who experienced any of the conditions in the past.

The Education Department’s decision to include the termination of pregnancy and lactation in the definition, and provide clear processes so schools can meet their responsibilities to students experiencing those conditions, is especially notable in the context of a post-Roe world, Patel said.

“While Title IX doesn’t guarantee or prohibit abortion access to students, it does grant students the right to learn in an environment free from discrimination based on their decision to obtain an abortion,” she said. “That means schools can’t remove someone from an educational program or activity just because they sought, obtained, or are recovering from an abortion.”

The rules also clarify that it’s not enough for schools to allow pregnant or parenting students to participate in education programs or activities; they must also provide modifications so students have access to an equal education.

For example, the rules state that schools must provide breastfeeding employees and students with break times and sanitary spaces for lactation.

That clarification is especially important as teenagers often struggle with stigma surrounding breastfeeding, Cleveland said. The Tulsa district has private lactation spaces in every high school that participates in the Strong Tomorrows program.

“That’s a medical problem and that’s also a social problem. It’s embarrassing if [the student] wasn’t released and now the milk lets down and she’s in class,” Cleveland said. “For some areas who aren’t maybe as progressive or willing accommodate the students, now that’s something that the students and families and community can stand by and say, ‘This [lack of accommodation] is not an option anymore.’”

Comprehensive programs and sex education are key to supporting students

Title IX isn’t the limit of what schools can do to support pregnant and parenting students. Many districts, like the Tulsa district, go far beyond what Title IX requires by providing comprehensive services for students experiencing pregnancy and parenting.

Through Strong Tomorrows, the students in Tulsa have connections to social workers to help them navigate welfare, insurance, and medical care for their children. They also attend regular workshop classes that teach them about parenting. Some districts, like Tulsa, provide remote learning and tutoring programs for students who miss weeks of in-person class time due to pregnancy-related conditions. Tulsa includes its pregnant and parenting students in a program called Homebound, which allows students who aren’t able to attend classes in person for extended periods of time because of sickness or other medical reasons to take online classes and work with school case managers at home.

The programs and services can often be the keys to academic and, later, professional success for parenting students, said JeNeen Anderson, senior director of health equity at Power to Decide, a national campaign to prevent unplanned pregnancy.

“These programs can actually provide these students with the peer support and encouragement to help them from feeling isolation,” Anderson said. “They can also help to reduce the dropout rate, provide comprehensive care, and improve the health of the actual student parent along with their child.”

Even more than providing support for pregnant and parenting students, Anderson said schools should provide comprehensive sex education that teaches students about healthy relationships, consent, sexuality, and sexual health. As states enact laws to limit abortion access, those preventive measures are even more important, Anderson said.

“There are things that we wanted schools to be doing and we’ve been trying, working towards schools doing even before Roe v. Wade,” she said. “Now we’re at an even more crucial point because of the implications [Roe’s reversal] has on other reproductive health [issues] like birth control and access to birth control.”

The proposed Title IX rules have been posted on the Federal Register for public comment and have received over 24,000comments so far. People who are interested in sharing public comments on the rules can do so by visiting on or before Sept. 12.

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Adnan Syed of ‘Serial,’ Newly Freed, Is Hired by Georgetown University



Adnan Syed, who was freed in September after he spent 23 years in prison fighting a murder conviction that was chronicled in the hit podcast “Serial,” has been hired by Georgetown University as an associate for an organization whose work mirrors the efforts that led to his release, the university has announced.

Mr. Syed, the subject of the 2014 podcast and pop-culture sensation that raised questions about whether he had received a fair trial after being convicted of strangling his high school classmate and onetime girlfriend Hae Min Lee in 1999, will work for Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative.

Mr. Syed, who was 17 at the time of Ms. Lee’s death in Baltimore, has steadfastly maintained his innocence.

The university said that Mr. Syed, now 41, will help support programs at the organization, such as a class in which students reinvestigate wrongful convictions and seek to “bring innocent people home” by creating short documentaries about their findings. The program, founded in 2016, “brings together leading scholars, practitioners, students and those affected by the criminal justice system to tackle the problem of mass incarceration,” according to its website.

Georgetown University, which is in Washington, said that in the year leading up to his release, Mr. Syed was enrolled in the university’s bachelor of liberal arts program at the Maryland prison where he was incarcerated.

“To go from prison to being a Georgetown student and then to actually be on campus on a pathway to work for Georgetown at the Prisons and Justice Initiative, it’s a full circle moment,” Mr. Syed said in a statement. “P.J.I. changed my life. It changed my family’s life. Hopefully I can have the same kind of impact on others.”

He added that he hoped to continue his education at Georgetown and go to law school.

The new job this month culminated what has been a remarkable year for Mr. Syed, whose case has again received widespread public attention after a flurry of recent legal activity.

In September, Mr. Syed was released from prison after a judge overturned his murder conviction. Prosecutors said at the time that an investigation had uncovered various problems related to his case, including the potential involvement of two suspects and key evidence that prosecutors might have failed to provide to Mr. Syed’s lawyers.

In October, prosecutors in Baltimore dropped the charges against Mr. Syed after DNA testing on items that had never been fully examined proved Mr. Syed’s innocence, officials said.

Ms. Lee’s family filed an appeal with the Maryland Court of Special Appeals after prosecutors dropped the charges.

On Nov. 4, the court said in an order that the appeal could be heard in court in February.

Marc Howard, the director of the Prisons and Justice Initiative, said in a statement that Mr. Syed’s “commitment to the program and to his education was clear from the moment he stepped into the classroom.”

He added that Mr. Syed “is one of the most resilient and inspiring people I’ve ever met, and he has so much to offer our team and the other students in P.J.I. programs.”

In a Georgetown University article about the hiring, Mr. Syed said that he was in disbelief when he first saw a flier for the program.

“It became this domino effect to see us be accepted,” he said. “It made it become something real in the eyes of others, that there are opportunities. There can be a sense of hope: a sense of hope that things can get better, a sense of hope that I can work hard and still achieve something, a sense of hope that I can still do something that my family will be proud of.”

His attachment to the school was evident on Sept. 19, when he walked out of prison for the first time since he was a teenager.

Amid a throng of reporters and his supporters, Mr. Syed walked down the courthouse steps in Baltimore, smiling. He gave a wave.

And in his hand, he carried a binder with a Georgetown sticker. His graded papers and tests were inside.

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At Berkeley Law, a Debate Over Zionism, Free Speech and Campus Ideals



“Supporting Palestinian liberation does not mean opposition to Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” the group said in a statement to the Berkeley law community. Members of the group did not respond to messages seeking an interview.

After learning about the bylaw, Mr. Chemerinsky met with the university’s Hillel rabbi and spoke with several Jewish students, but, aside from concerns within the law school, the reaction was relatively muted, he said.

That changed, he said, after Kenneth L. Marcus, the civil rights chief of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration, wrote about the bylaw in September in The Jewish Journal under the explosive headline “Berkeley Develops Jewish Free Zones.”

Mr. Marcus wrote that the bylaw was “frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night,” and said that free speech does not protect discriminatory conduct.

The article went viral.

Mr. Chemerinsky said he learned about Mr. Marcus’s article, which he described as “inflammatory and distorted,” while he was in Los Angeles for a conference. Mr. Chemerinsky said he typed out a response to the article, which was appended to it, and then didn’t think much of it. That afternoon, he was deluged by emails. At an alumni event that night, the law school’s perceived hostility to Jews was “all anyone wanted to talk about.”

In an interview, Mr. Marcus, a Berkeley law school alumnus, said that he was contacted by law students there who were concerned about the bylaw. He said he spent weeks trying to support them and wrote his article after Berkeley did not “rectify the problem.”

Not allowing Zionist speakers, he said, was a proxy for prohibiting Jews. The provisions, he said, are “aimed at the Jewish community and those who support the Jewish community,” even while acknowledging that the policy could allow Jewish speakers and bar those who are not Jewish.

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‘Better Defined By Their Strengths’: 5 Ways to Support Students With Learning Differences



“People with learning differences are human,” wrote Deanna White, a neurodiversity advocate and parent learning coach in response to a question we posed on LinkedIn. “Unique individuals and wonderful humans that are better defined by their strengths. So stop focusing on the weakness.”

We invited our social media followers across Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to weigh in on the most effective way schools can better support students with learning differences.

Responses ranged from shifting educators’ mindset—like highlighting student strengths—to more far-reaching changes that would require schoolwide or district support.

Focus on students’ strengths

There are many ways of encouraging students to play to their strengths, as educators Winston Sakurai and Phyllis Fagell demonstrated in an August 2022 article by Education Week Assistant Editor Denisa Superville.

They detailed how they shared their own learning struggles as a way to connect with their students. Their personal successes show students, who may be struggling academically or socially, that anything is possible.

Here’s what other educators had to say.

1. Help them understand their learning strengths and challenges and growing them as strong self-advocates.

2. Devoting time and money to developing teachers’ abilities to differentiate.

– Amy S.

By having high expectations and giving them exposure to high-quality materials and experiences, even ones that seem “above them.” They will shock us with their insights every time.

– Angela P. 😒😒🥴

Meet students where they are

In a 2015 primer on the topic, EdWeek Assistant Editor Sarah D. Sparks wrote about how “differentiated instruction”—the process of identifying students’ individual learning strengths, needs, and interests and adapting lessons to match them—became a popular approach to helping diverse students learn together. Respondents largely agreed.

Time to work with every student. If you can meet with a child for a bit of time to help with exactly what she or he needs, it might ignite both learning and understanding.

Alison K.

So many ways…start with environment, a.k.a. The Third Teacher.

  • Reduce obstacles

  • Increase supports

  • Meet kids where they are

(h/t @drncgarrett)

Matt R.

Small class sizes, strong positive teacher/student relationships, differentiated instruction, and reflection.

Yvonne E.

Smaller class sizes

In a 2017 Opinion essay, former teacher Marc Vicenti wrote about “the daily wear and tear on educators when trying to juggle a full teaching load and meaningful relationships with lively young people who all have different needs and experiences.”

“We can either choose to be less effective in our practice or exhaust ourselves—neither of which is beneficial to students or our own well-being,” he wrote.

Smaller class sizes are one way of mitigating the risk of burnout while working to meet each student’s needs.

Small classes, small schools, local control. I am the principal in a pretty small school in a small community and I know every child, and every family and we can build programs to meet our students’ needs. A country run or state run school system can’t do that.

Ryan G.

Increase funding to actually lower the student-to-teacher ratio. This allows teachers to give more time to the individual.

Cathleen W.

Fewer standardized tests

Standardized tests have long been criticized for narrowing instruction and for holding all students to the same standard when “students enter school at varying levels and learn and grow at different rates.”

The backlash against standardized testing renewed interest in alternative ways to evaluate students’ learning progress, like “performance assessments—the idea of measuring what students can do, not merely what they know”.

STOP standardized testing.

Dawn W.

Fewer standardized or timed tests, teaching to mastery, not according to a schedule.


Give students a voice

Sometimes it’s best to go to the source to discern how to best tackle an issue. Giving these students a voice can not only empower them in their learning, but also help educators understand how to have the biggest impact.

Ask them how they learn and what helps. Give them a voice!

Grisel W.

Yes! Listening to what students need and giving them a voice is something we need to do for all students, but especially those who need more help in the classroom.

Victoria D.

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