JP Kids: BPS updates pregnancy policies

Boston Public Schools (BPS) has updated its policies in support of students who are parenting and to reduce student pregnancy. The changes tighten confidentiality guidelines and enforce federal Title IX protections.

The last time BPS guidelines for expectant or parenting students was updated was in 1987.

“Changes are being put in place now, beginning with an education campaign to help schools and students understand the changes,” BPS spokesperson Lee Maguire told the Gazette. Policy changes are expected to roll out this fall, he added.

A summary of the new policy, provided to the Gazette by Maguire, states, BPS “must first aim to prevent student pregnancy.”

“However, for students who are currently expectant or parenting, it is also essential to engage with students to ensure a safe, supportive learning environment and promote academic success. Moreover, we must ensure district compliance with federal Title IX law, which prohibits discrimination against students who are pregnant or parenting,” the policy states.

That means expectant and parenting students may choose how and when to seek services and support from school staff, and that staff must follow all confidentiality laws and regulations with regards to that student. Students must give written and informed consent before any of their expectant or parenting status is recorded as part of their school record.

The policy also enforces Title IX law, which protects discrimination on the basis of sex and includes protections for pregnant women and their partners. Schools must not discriminate against or exclude expectant or parenting students based on that status, and a Title IX coordinator at each school will oversee that enforcement.

BPS will also implement “sensible attendance policies” accommodating pregnancy and related conditions. Those include childbirth, recovery from childbirth and termination of a pregnancy as excused absences. Parenting students will also be excused if their child is sick.

Pregnant or parenting students also have the right to remain in their regular school program and may attend an alternative school if they so wish.

Finally, the new policy will be reviewed annually and updated as needed.

“The policy had not been changed in nearly 20 years, and we felt it was past time for an update,” Maguire said.

“We collaborated with the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy and other organizations, including the Boston Student Advisory Council, to determine how to update the policy. There was no specific catalyst other than a shared belief that it was the right thing to do,” Maguire said.

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