Truman offers services for pregnant students

Students in need of pregnancy services can find assistance and support through Truman State University’s Title IX Office, among other campus resources.

Pregnant students are protected from discrimination by Title IX, which is a law mandated by the Department of Education. Certain accommodations can be given to a student to ensure they can continue their education while pregnant and after they give birth to a child, however, this treatment is not preferential because pregnant students are still expected to fulfill all of Truman’s academic expectations.

Lauri Millot, institutional compliance officer and Title IX coordinator, said the pregnant student is allowed to attend doctor’s appointments, have more restroom and breastfeeding breaks and have a maternity leave of six to eight weeks. When a Truman student leaves the classroom for maternity leave, Millot said her status as a student is put on hold. Millot said the student’s right to an education and current academic progress is not harmed by being pregnant. After a student’s maternity leave is done, Millot said Truman is legally bound to work with her and give her opportunities to continue and complete her classes and assignments. 

Pregnant students should contact Millot instead of making leave arrangements with a faculty member, she said. As a mediator, Millot said her job is to help protect the student, the staff member and the student’s private medical records. She said it is not a student’s responsibility to give faculty member’s medical records that show proof of pregnancy or its limitations. Additionally, it is not up to the professor to decide what actions are appropriate for the student. Millot said professors can’t legally infringe on a student’s service needs. Millot said that in the case of pregnancy, she will email the faculty member on behalf of the student and the Title IX Office. The student then receives a copy of the email and relays pregnancy appointments and needs to Millot.

Janna Stoskopf, vice president for student affairs, said pregnant students can also contact the Student Access and Disability Services Office. While pregnancy is not a disability, Stoskopf said it is a temporary medical situation which can make pregnant students eligible for student access accommodations. 

The U.S. Department of Education mandates that universities explicitly state Title IX and the individuals it protects either on their websites or as an available PDF file or pamphlet. Examples of universities that specifically include pregnancy under their anti-discrimination policy include the University of Missouri-Columbia, Missouri University of Science & Technology, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Missouri-St. Louis. According to the University of Missouri’s Chancellor’s Task Force on Pregnant and Parenting Policies standing committee, there is no specific policy of accommodation in place for pregnant students at Mizzou. Organizing and coordinating appointments, classes and birth is left up to the student. 

Millot said there needs to be a paragraph on Truman’s Title IX website that specifies pregnant students have rights and available services on campus. 

“[Pregnancy services] need to be clearly delineated to various service providers on campus so that you don’t end up going to three folks before you get to me,” Millot said. “You only go to the first one and they direct you over.”

Millot said she has only seen one instance of pregnancy as Truman’s Title IX coordinator since she arrived in September of last year. 

Stoskopf said she hasn’t been aware of the difficulty pregnant students might have with finding resources on campus. While pregnant students deserve the same access to education as any other student, Stoskopf said the absence of active pregnancy service awareness on campus is not because Truman lacks concern for those students.

“I think sometimes it’s easy for institutions to operate from a standpoint of what are people asking for versus looking at trying to anticipate what people might need,” Stoskopf said. “I don’t think anything has been intentional about ignoring [pregnancy services], but I will say that this campus, as compared to many other campuses across the country, has a far stronger sense of the traditional [college] student and what that means.”  

Stoskopf said the traditional college student is considered to be as young as 18 or in their early 20’s, unmarried and without children. Stoskopf said she has seen big populations of non-traditional students at other academic institutions she has worked at in the past, but non-traditional students are a minority at Truman. 

Women’s Resource Center staff can refer pregnant students to clinics around Kirksville and the health center, and has books and information on pregnancy. WRC Director Jasmine Jaquess said pregnancy is an important topic but she does not know how many students at Truman deal with pregnancy or how much of the school’s population would be interested in pregnancy events. 

WRC staff often don’t talk about pregnancy because it has not been a topic of high interest or need for students. However, if the WRC sent out a poll or if pregnancy became a hot topic on campus, Jaquess said the WRC would be more than willing to hold an event or talk about it.

Angela Shuey, Northeast Missouri Health Council’s women’s health nurse practitioner, said there are also several pregnancy services in Kirksville and the surrounding area for students. Shuey said Lifeline Pregnancy Help Clinic is located on North New Street and has a variety of pregnancy resources including free pregnancy tests, parenting classes, resources for unplanned pregnancy and adoption consultation. Shuey said another resource students can use is the Genesis House of Northeast Missouri in Edina, Missouri, which can give support for women in unplanned and crisis pregnancies. Additionally, the Adair County Health Department is associated with Women, Infants and Children, which provides food vouchers for pregnant women, new mothers and those with infants and children.