ATLANTA (AP) – An east-Georgia teen says in a civil rights complaint that she should have been allowed to complete her schoolwork from home while she was pregnant and on doctor-ordered bed rest.
Eighteen-year-old Mikelia Seals was a junior at Washington-Wilkes Comprehensive High School when her doctor ordered bed rest seven months into her pregnancy, according to the complaint. It says a guidance counselor told Seals the school did not have a program letting her take classes from home, and that the principal later told her the school has a homebound program but pregnancy was not an eligible condition.
She gave birth to a daughter in April.
The complaint was filed Thursday with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in Atlanta.
Wilkes County Schools Superintendent Rosemary Caddell said she had not seen the complaint and couldn’t comment.
An attorney for Seals said the school violated federal Title IX law by not giving her an opportunity to complete schoolwork from home as students with medical conditions were allowed. While the law is commonly associated with equality on sports teams, it prevents gender-based discrimination in all education programs, said Lara Kaufmann, senior counsel with the National Women’s Law Center which wrote the complaint.
“The law has really important requirements that a lot of schools are neglecting, in particular their responsibility to protect young students like Mikela who are pregnant or parents and keep them in school,” Kaufmann said.
Georgia’s education rules require that pregnant students be considered for homebound programs, if they meet other eligibility requirements. School districts are given the authority to determine how long pregnant students are eligible.
The U.S. Department of Education weighed in on the issue in a letter issued in June 2013, reminding school districts that they could not require pregnant students to be in separate classes and must excuse absences that a doctor deemed “medically necessary.” The letter also said schools could not require that pregnant students submit “medical certification” that they could stay in school.
The complaint asks for an Office of Civil Rights investigation of the school and district policies. It also asks that Seals have a chance to complete her spring classes and remove any failing grades or disciplinary action from her record, and that she be reimbursed for any expenses.
Washington, Ga., is a little over 100 miles east of Atlanta.