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Belmont apologizes to pregnant law school students over “misunderstandings”

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Belmont University apologized for its role in any misunderstandings leading to claims that the law school’s attendance policy discriminates against pregnant women.

The apology and statement followed the conclusion of the Title IX office’s investigation launched after four women came forward, saying the law school treated them unfairly.

In addition to apologizing, the university said it will take steps to clarify how pregnant students can obtain medically necessary, pregnancy-related accommodations, adding that “nothing is more important than the health and well-being of its students.”

The full statement reads:

“A thorough Investigation by Belmont University’s Title IX Office into suggestions that the college’s attendance policies discriminated against pregnant women was recently completed. The investigation, which included interviews with all involved parties, found that:

1. There were no situations in which pregnancy-related, medically-necessary accommodations were requested and denied; therefore, no discriminatory or illegal practices were found.

2. There were several situations cited in which pregnancy-related accommodations were requested, and granted.

3. However, there were also situations in which miscommunication and misunderstanding resulted in some students feeling uncomfortable requesting pregnancy-related exceptions to the attendance policy in times of medical-necessity.

The College of Law apologizes for its role in any such misunderstandings, is taking steps to clarify for all students how medically-necessary, pregnancy-related accommodations can be granted under existing policies, and affirms that nothing is more important than the health and well-being of its students.”

Sarah Martin, who originally brought the women’s grievances to the law school’s deans, said that the women were happy to hear Belmont opt for change.

“I think I speak for all the women involved when I say we are ecstatic to learn that we were successful and that the university is committed to ensuring Belmont College of Law is an inclusive and supportive place for pregnant students and students recovering from childbirth,” Martin said.

Kendall Ponchillia, a current pregnant student whom Sarah Martin represents, is pleased with the investigation’s outcome, Martin said.

“Ms. Ponchillia remains focused on having a healthy pregnancy and graduating law school, and looks forward to working with the Title IX Office and her professors to accommodate the remainder of her pregnancy and the birth of her child.”

Another one of the women who came forward, Rachel Clifton, said she was optimistic about the relationship between law school and its students moving forward.

She said the school’s Title IX office and its coordinator, Lauri Chaudoin, were genuinely invested in upholding “the spirit of Belmont’s values.”

“They found no actual violation of federal law … but they did find that there wasn’t a culture at the law school that was consistent with Belmont’s values,” she said.

“I regret that this ever had to be adversarial and I hope that those tensions quickly fall away. I do think that this is something that’s good for Belmont — it makes Belmont law a better place.”

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