EDUCATION

Pregnant graduate students shocked by UVA treatment

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Everyone knows there are legal protections in most workplaces for pregnant workers. But what about pregnant college students?

Some local graduate students are shocked by the reaction to their pregnancies at one prestigious local university.

When Ashley Faaborg found out she was pregnant last August, the Robinson secondary school teacher never thought that could prevent her from getting her master's degree on time from the University of Virginia.

But just to make sure, she tried looking up UVA's pregnancy policy.

So Faaborg emailed her two professors to find out. One wrote back and said he'd be willing to work with her around her situation.

But the other professor, Dr. Sara Dexter, gave a completely different response, she said.

"The answer was, if you miss two classes you're going to get an incomplete," Faaborg said.

That meant Faaborg wouldn't get a much-hoped-for pay raise at work because she'd have to wait another year to take the same course at UVA's Falls Church campus. The only other option was to travel with a newborn to Charlottesville for summer classes.

Faaborg wasn't the only one. Another pregnant graduate student who asked not to be identified also says Dexter wouldn't allow her to make up or tape one of the long weekend classes -- even if she were in the hospital. And she says Dexter insinuated she schedule a C-section to avoid missing class.

The university can't legally talk about specific cases, but it says Dexter was following the satellite campus' strict attendance policy.

When asked to go on camera, university officials and the professor declined.

In a statement, Dexter says "my priority is for my students to fulfill their highest potential -- in their learning, in their profession as educators and in their lives."

And UVA's education school says it has no intent to undermine women who are pregnant.

Even after being put on bed rest Faaborg was forced to go to class.

"I have to lay here all day with ice packs all over me just so my husband can drag me into class and I can sit there for eight hours," she said.

Faaborg went into labor just three days after class ended.

ABC7 checked with both private and public universities in the area and found at least three, the University of Maryland, Georgetown, and George Washington University, that had written maternity leave policies specifically for graduate students.

UVA's education school says it is open to re-examining its attendance policy to see what kinds of accommodations can be made for pregnant students.

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