Belmont University responds to claims of discrimination against pregnant students

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Posted at 3:50 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-13 09:17:07-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Claims of pregnancy discrimination have put Belmont University under the microscope.

Belmont University Law School is now exploring an independent review of complaints by current and former female students to see if changes need to be made.

It comes after an article by the Belmont Vision - a student-led campus newspaper.

The Vision reports several pregnant students were told they would not be able to get medical accommodations if they had to miss any classes and that their only options were either to take a leave of absence... or risk failing.

Belmont spokesperson Greg Pillon provided the following statement:

"First, let us state that the law school is completely committed to our students and helping them achieve their dreams of practicing law. The only thing more important to us than their success in the field is their personal health and wellbeing. It pains us that any student or alumni from our program did not feel the full support of this College, especially a pregnant student in the midst of a medical crisis.

The College of Law operates under an attendance policy within the norms of other law schools that allows students a set number of absences for any reason. Legal education differs from some other programs in its emphasis on collaborative learning and in-person interaction. Class attendance is an important part of this type of education, and we believe our students’ participation in class significantly aids in their efforts to learn how to be a lawyer.

Our student handbook provides that whenever a pregnant student or new mother has a health issue that may impact the attendance policy, that student should contact the associate dean for academic affairs. We will work with the student and her professor to ensure the student, if possible, is able to make up missing classroom time and learn the subject matter. In more difficult circumstances where that is not possible, then we work with the student to arrange a leave of absence so that she is not faced with the choice of risking her health, risking poor class performance, or withdrawing from the program. We know of no current or past policy, practice, or expectation that students are to be in class at the risk of their health.

As to many of the specific allegations in this story regarding the attendance policy and medical exceptions, the information reported does not align with the student-centered values with which our law school strives to operate. That has us concerned. Moreover, we reject any suggestion that our College operated outside the law in any of these situations.

In order to understand the conflicting reports, we are committed to thoroughly reviewing these situations to determine the next appropriate steps and to seek ways to better clarify our commitment to student welfare and success. Additionally, in order to understand these conflicting reports, we will fully support an independent review into this matter by the University’s Title IX office. In short, we will get to the bottom of this because we want every student – past or present – to feel supported by the College of Law.

Again, and we cannot say this strongly enough, our students’ health and wellbeing is our number one priority. We commit to all current and future pregnant students that we will assist them in navigating through law study while also taking into careful consideration their personal health circumstances. It may not always be easy, but it will be fair.

Belmont College of Law"