Christian College Changes Policy After Criticism for Kicking Out Pregnant Student

National   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Sep 19, 2016   |   6:01PM   |   Washington, DC

A small, historically black Christian college in South Carolina changed its policy toward pregnant students recently after it faced a discrimination lawsuit from one of its former students, NBC News reports.

Claflin University alumna Kamaria Downs successfully challenged her college’s policy toward pregnant students and reached a settlement agreement in August, according to the report.

Downs, an honor student, was pregnant with her daughter when she went back for her senior year at Claflin in 2015. When the university learned that she was pregnant, it kicked her out of the dorms and told her to move off campus, she said. Downs said she already had paid for her dorm room and meals and did not receive a refund for the dorm.

“I had to conceal my pregnancy from everyone and the university made me feel ashamed to be pregnant,” Downs said. “I had to stand up. It wasn’t right.”

The young woman said she moved into a professor’s home because her home was too far away.

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Downs later sued the university for discrimination. Adele Kimmel, an attorney who represented Downs through Public Justice, said she was happy about the outcome of the case.

“I have to give kudos to Claflin,” Kimmel told NBC. “They really set a good example. They took the high road and took steps to address the issue as soon as they understood what the problem was.”

A university spokesman also said they appreciated that Downs brought “her concerns to our attention.” He assured NBC that the new policy treats everyone “equitably and respectfully.”

Downs now is an elementary school teacher and a mother to her 1-year-old daughter.

“We all know the world isn’t perfect,” she said. “But my hope is [my daughter] will look at me and see how I helped, and for her to say, ‘I can make a change, as well.’ I did it not only for her, but for other girls growing up.”

College campuses tend not to be welcoming toward pregnant and parenting student. Some students face discrimination, and many are not presented with resources and support for themselves and their children. The abortion industry also regularly targets college-age women, the age group most likely to have abortions.

Programs like Students for Life’s Pregnant on Campus are changing the situation for the better. Through the project, student groups advocate for baby changing tables in restrooms and non-discriminatory policies toward pregnant and parenting students. Some offer scholarships, while others provide free babysitting, host baby showers and more. They also direct women to area agencies and resource organizations that can offer additional support.