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Assistance, Accommodation, and Leave Policy for Pregnant Students, Students with Pregnancy-Related Conditions, and Parenting Students

Eligibility

Graduate students who are full-time, in good academic standing, and progressing toward degree completion are eligible for the assistance, accommodation, and leave policy. The policy applies to students currently experiencing pregnancy, pregnancy-related conditions and/or parenting.

Pregnancy and pregnancy-related conditions include (but are not limited to) pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy, and conditions arising in connection with pregnancy or recovery from any of these conditions, in accordance with federal law.

A Parenting Student is a student with the legal or voluntary responsibility to ensure the safety and well-being of a child and includes:

  • Birth and non-birth parents
  • Adopting parents
  • Fostering parents
  • Legal guardians
  • Spouses or domestic partners of a parent or legal guardian
  • Grandparents
  • Stepparents
  • Siblings with significant caregiving responsibility
  • Kinship placement
  • In loco parentis

For the purposes of this policy, parenting continues throughout the child’s lifespan.

Non-Discrimination, Assistance, and Accommodations for Graduate Pregnant Students, Students with Pregnancy-Related Conditions, and Parenting Students

MU faculty and staff shall work to ensure pregnant and parenting students equitable access in their courses of study, research, and University employment. The intention of this policy is to promote an inclusive and welcoming environment for families at MU.  Faculty are encouraged to remain flexible in their expectations of eligible students, so that students can meet the demands of study. Nothing in this policy can or should replace communication and cooperation between student and the academic program, and the good-faith efforts of both to accommodate the birth, fostering, adoption, and parenting of a child.

Pregnancy/parenting related assistance(s) are interim remedies, arrangements, or special services provided to pregnant and/or parenting students that are implemented to alleviate common concerns/conditions/challenges that may impede pregnant and parenting students from accessing their education and employment, but do not rise to the level of disabilities under the ADA requiring accommodations. Pregnancy/parenting related assistance(s) are provided to pregnant/parenting students to help ensure continued participation in classes, work and extracurricular activities. Assistance does not constitute reasonable accommodations under the ADA, nor are they implemented to accommodate permanent or temporary disabilities.  Remedies of this nature are typically provided or arranged by the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX in conjunction with faculty members/instructors and/or supervisors.

In line with the defined policy, faculty are encouraged to state their expectations on absences or late submission of coursework explicitly in the class syllabus, including any accommodations, such as makeup exams or redistribution of credit from a missed midterm to the final exam.

Students who are pregnant or are experiencing medical conditions or other issues associated with pregnancy or childbirth shall be provided with benefits and opportunities that are no less than those provided to students with a temporary medical condition.  Students should request pregnancy-related arrangements through the Office for Civil Rights and Title IX and in certain cases may be referred to the Disability Center.

Students who are experiencing pregnancy-related impairments that meet the definition of a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act are entitled to reasonable accommodations to ensure equitable access in their courses of study or research. This could involve changes in the academic environment, including the graduate assistantship environment, that enable a pregnant student or student with a pregnancy-related condition to continue to pursue their studies and enjoy equal benefits of the university. Students should request reasonable accommodations through the Disability Center.

Students requesting pregnancy-related arrangements should do so as soon as they become aware that arrangements may be needed. Students are encouraged to make arrangements in advance whenever possible if they anticipate classes, assignments, and/or exams will be missed.  Pregnancy-related arrangements may include, but are not limited to:

  • providing appropriate time and space to support lactation
  • extending deadlines and/or allowing the student to make up tests or assignments missed for pregnancy-related absences
  • parking arrangements
  • excusing medically-necessary absences
  • modified academic responsibilities
  • modifications requested by the pregnant student to protect the health and safety of the student and/or pregnancy (such as allowing the student to maintain a safe distance from hazardous substances)
  • modifications to the physical environment (such as allowing use of accessible seating)
  • providing remote learning options
  • granting a leave of absence (described below)

Faculty are encouraged to work with parenting students to address their parenting obligations and needs, which may include, but are not limited to, issues related to:

  • Closure of school or childcare facility
  • Disability
  • Family-related health issues e.g., physical and/or emotional or behavioral health issues
  • Healthcare visits, and
  • Hospitalization
  • Bereavement

Special Notice to International Students: Students who are attending MU with a F-1 Student visa or J-1 Exchange Visitor visa are strongly encouraged to consult in advance with the International Center about their plans if they are considering modified academic responsibilities or a leave of absence.

Modified Academic Responsibilities for Graduate Pregnant Students, Students with Pregnancy-Related Conditions, and Parenting Students

Eligible students who wish to remain engaged in their coursework while adjusting their academic responsibilities may request an academic modification period of up to 6 weeks, which could include temporary full relief from all academic responsibilities. Academic modification is not a leave of absence; it is a modification of deadlines and academic expectations to support the student’s parenting responsibilities, created in consultation with faculty and/or the student’s advisor and documented in a written Modified Academic Responsibilities Plan. Copies should also be submitted to the relevant department chair/director and to the Graduate School. Extensions to these timelines may be granted where additional time is required due to medical necessity or extraordinary parenting responsibilities. While receiving academic modifications, the student will remain registered as a student and will retain benefits accordingly.

The details of their engagement should be articulated in writing prior to the modification period and submitted to the department chair/director and copied to the Graduate School. Considerations for a plan may include (as appropriate):

  • Eligible graduate students who seek academic modifications shall be allowed an extension of up to 12 months to prepare for and take qualifying and comprehensive examinations, and an extension of up to 12 months of the time to degree while in candidacy. Longer extensions may be granted in extenuating circumstances. Extensions requests must be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School.
  • Students holding graduate assistantships will continue to receive funding and are entitled to relief of all duties for up to 6 weeks. N.B., if the student is funded by a grant, there may be financial support available from certain granting agencies (e.g., from NIH or NSF); the level of support may be determined by the granting agency.
  • If a graduate student is funded by an external fellowship, the level of support may be determined by the foundation.
  • If a graduate student is funded by a University of Missouri fellowship (e.g., Ridgel, Huggins, Marshall), the student will continue to receive fellowship funding during the modification period.
  • Students who do not have an on-going commitment of financial support (excluding benefit eligible employment within the University of Missouri System) from the University are eligible for modified academic responsibilities, but are not entitled to financial support from the University of Missouri as a result of the modification.

Programs with clinical or internship requirements are encouraged to work with their students to ensure that the students are able to complete their studies.

After the end of the modification period, students are expected to return to study and resume progress toward completing their degrees. Faculty are encouraged to remain flexible in their expectations of eligible students, so that students can meet the demands of study. Nothing in this policy can or should replace communication and cooperation between student and the academic program, and the good-faith efforts of both to accommodate the birth, fostering, adoption, and parenting of a child.

Academic Leave of Absence Due to Pregnancy, Pregnancy-Related Conditions, and Parenting for Graduate and Professional Students

An eligible student may elect to take a leave of absence for up to one academic year because of pregnancy and/or pregnancy-related disability or the birth, adoption, or placement of a child. In addition, if a child requires extensive or extraordinary care the parenting student may request a leave of absence. The leave term may be extended in the case of extenuating circumstances.

A student taking a leave of absence under this policy shall provide notice of the intent to take leave 30 days prior to the initiation of leave, or as soon as practical by submitting a request for a leave. Signatures must be obtained from the student’s advisor and the DGS. The request is then sent to the Dean of the Graduate School.

Intermittent leave may be taken with the advance approval of the student’s department, or when medically necessary due to the student’s health condition.

While registered in that status, students who choose to take a leave of absence under this policy will communicate with the Graduate School regarding their eligibility for health insurance coverage (if they purchase health insurance through the University of Missouri or receive an insurance subsidy as part of an assistantship) and, if applicable, Residential Life.

Continuation of the student’s scholarship, fellowship, or similar university-sponsored funding during the leave term will depend on the student’s registration status and the policies of the funding program regarding registration status.

Students will not be negatively impacted or forfeit their future eligibility for their scholarship, fellowship, or similar university-supported funding by taking leave under this policy. In addition, if a student is receiving a university fellowship for a specified number of years, the student will not lose the year of eligibility during the leave, rather the fellowship will be extended for an additional year upon return to full-time student status.

Upon return from leave, the student will be reinstated to their program in the same status as when the leave began.

A student who seeks academic leave upon the birth or placement of their child shall be allowed an extension of up to 12 months to prepare for and take preliminary and qualifying examinations, and an extension of up to 12 months of the time to degree while in candidacy. Longer extensions may be requested in extenuating circumstances. Extension requests must be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School.

For doctoral candidates, continuous enrollment will be waived during the leave period and will not be responsible for tuition accrued during the time of the leave.

Faculty or staff shall not require a student to take a leave of absence, or withdraw from or limit their studies due to pregnancy, childbirth, or related conditions.