China Ballet Class
Ballet students, aged three to five years old, look at their teacher as she gestures to them during a class in a sports center in Shanghai January 7, 2010. Reuters

China may be relaxing its one-child policy, but having a child might just be getting harder for some couples: One high school now requires female teachers to submit a written request and get the principal’s signature before they may become pregnant, according to Yangtse Evening News.

The high school in question is located in the city of Gaoyou, in the coastal province of Jiangsu. On Tuesday, the school’s family policies were posted on a local forum. The first two regulations are about marriage and maternity leaves teachers are entitled to under national laws, but the third reads as follows:

“To ensure the school can operate normally, each semester, in each subject matter, only one teacher may become pregnant. Married teachers should plan their pregnancies according to the school’s management. A teacher who is planning a pregnancy should submit, one semester prior, a written request, and may become pregnant only upon receiving the principal’s permission.”

The regulation goes on to say that if a teacher does not abide by the policy, she will not be entitled to maternity subsidies nor be qualified for any awards or professional advancement in the following three years.

The policy predictably caused an uproar among Chinese netizens. “School principals have this right? I can’t stop laughing,” one commented. Many called the decree inhumane or impossible to enforce.

“Our school rolled out this regulation just last week, and it’s a forced decision,” according to the school’s principal, identified by his last name, Tai. “If we have too many teachers on maternity leave, our classes won’t be sufficiently staffed.”

Principal Tai said that more than 30 of the 160 teachers working for the high school are females of childbearing age. Many women in Gaoyou, which is a semirural town, are entitled to a second child under the one-child policy, which is more strictly enforced in urban areas. This means, in the high school’s case, that many of those 30 or so female teachers could be planning a pregnancy in the near future.

“Take freshman Chinese. We have three teachers on maternity leave in that subject already. If any more ask for vacation, we’ll be short of teachers,” Tai added in defense of the policy.

The Bureau of Education in Gaoyou has already asked the school to rescind the policy.