College Settles Pregnant Student’s Discrimination Complaint

A graduate student reached a settlement with Logan College in Missouri last week after the school failed her on exams she could not take while recovering from an emergency Caesarean section.

via Shutterstock
via Shutterstock

Brandi Kostal was two weeks away from completing her masters and doctorate-level classes when she began having medical issues with her pregnancy and required an emergency C-section. The school told her that its policy did not excuse pregnancy or childbirth-related absences and that she had to return to school or be penalized. As a result, Kostal attended a few classes just 11 days after her surgery.  Kostal, however, had not fully recovered, felt physically worn down, and ultimately had to miss final exams for two classes. Her professor, who taught both classes, failed her, causing Kostal to lose $16,000 in tuition and 40 credit hours and damaging her grade-point average.

The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), along with local counsel, filed a pregnancy discrimination complaint on Kostal’s behalf with the Chicago office of the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. The complaint alleged Logan College violated Title IX, the federal law that requires all recipients of federal financial assistance for education programs and activities to prohibit sex discrimination and sexual harassment [PDF].

The discrimination suit was settled last week when Logan College agreed to adopt policies for pregnant and parenting students under Title IX that excuse pregnancy-related absences, include the policy on its website and student handbook, and hold an annual training on the issue. It will also remove the F’s from Kostal’s transcript and allow her to complete the courses at no cost.

“We applaud Logan College for adopting a new policy that honors its responsibility under Title IX to help pregnant students and parents get the education they need to position themselves in our competitive economy,” said Fatima Goss Graves, NWLC Vice President of Education and Employment. “Student parents routinely juggle academic workloads, the rigorous demands of caring for children and the financial pressures of student loans and child care. When these students aren’t protected, far too many drop out of school, which hurts them and their families.”

Media Resources: St. Louis Post-Dispatch 12/11/13; National Women’s Law Center 12/10/13; Feminist Majority Foundation

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