Kamaria Downs Fought for Pregnant Students’ Rights

Kamaria Downs (not pictured) fought for pregnant students' rights.

Today, Kamaria Downs is 23 and an elementary school teacher in Greenville, South Carolina. She is also the mother of a nearly-two-year-old daughter, Ryann. And she’s making a footprint on education in her state, though not in the way one might expect.

Two years ago, when she was a student in her senior year at Clafin University, she was both an honors student and pregnant. She did her best to keep the pregnancy a secret, but when she had to fill out medical records for a spring semester student teaching positon, her condition came to light.

Clafin, which is a Methodist Christian school, followed its policies. She was past the first trimester, so she was prohibited from staying in the dorms and required to provide medical documentation about the status of her pregnancy to remain a student at all.

For Downs, who had already paid for her dorm room and meal plan for the year, finding off-campus housing was out of reach, and her parents’ home was more than two hours away. If it had not been for the generosity of a professor who offered her a room for token rent, she would have had to leave the college, her degree unfinished.

But she did graduate, her honors intact, and after graduation, she made sure to stand up for other pregnant students.

Title IX is a federal civil rights law applying to colleges and universities, prohibiting discrimination in education based on sex, specifically including pregnancy and parental status. Many religious schools across the country have sought waivers to those particular clauses—56 schools across the country are legally allowed to expel pregnant students who got pregnant while unmarried or who have abortions.

But Clafin has no such waiver, and after Downs and Clafin reached a confidential settlement in her lawsuit this last August, they have announced they never will, and instead have changed their policies on pregnancy. It’s a triumph for student parents across the country, who will not have to choose between their families and their education.

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