|Viralbus, "Phyllis breastfeeding" September 23, 2010 via Flikr, Creative Commons Attribution.|
This is the email I sent on January 17, a week after the SHAC meeting. It took me so long to write and send it in part because I was so disappointed and frustrated that I wanted to make sure I expressed myself as diplomatically as I could.
Dear Dr. Carstarphen and Mr. Waxler,
I hope you both had a wonderful holiday season and were able to begin the new year well-rested! I took advantage of the winter break to focus on my family and our holidays together. Now that school is back in session, I anticipated with excitement moving forward with the new breastfeeding regulation, and then being able to move on and begin work on (our school's) silent auction for our spring carnival. I am extremely appreciative that the regulation that isolated nursing mothers was rescinded. I was given to understand that the district would be working with us to put in place a new, supportive regulation. When Marianne Baker did not receive any language from Mr. Waxler following the rescission of the regulation, I thought perhaps he was waiting on our language, which Ms. Baker sent just before the break. When we still didn't hear from you as time wore on, I chalked it up to the holidays. It never occurred to me that it would just be dropped - and worse, without even any notice. You can imagine how shocked I was to find out when I attended the SHAC meeting last week.
I did not begin my efforts merely to remove the regulation that was adopted. This all began when I realized that there is no guidance for AISD staff regarding the treatment of breastfeeding mothers. The rescission of the regulation leaves a void that must be filled. An email to staff - presuming that there has been an email - will not provide consistency across the district. As new staff members are hired, only a regulation might manage to reach everyone. Furthermore, it would serve to communicate to the public that the district values the health of Austinites - especially the most vulnerable among us.
The district needs to take a pro-health, mother- and baby-friendly stand, supporting breastfeeding moms. This is about more than just discrimination and rights - women's, civil, and parents' - it is a serious public health issue. In the 2012 Lansinoh Breastfeeding Study a survey of 5,000 women showed nursing in public to be the top concern that served as a barrier to breastfeeding. In fact, 40% of American women were worried about feeding their babies in public places. For AISD to feed into that worry with the old regulation, and then fail to replace it with a regulation that communicates that they support breastfeeding moms, is doing a serious disservice to mothers and babies.
When I first contacted your offices, I was dismissed. It was over a week before I heard from anyone. When I eventually was contacted, emails were almost all a sentence or two. It took five weeks to basically edit what was described to me as the longstanding practice into a regulation. Of course I understand that you have many things on your plates that are important. As a mother of an AISD second grader, a drop-in speech student, and another future AISD student, I certainly want you to be able to focus on what is important. Thing is, I thought after realizing there is more than just one mom concerned here that you would see that this IS important. And it's not going away.
There is a shift happening in this country, a shift propelled by organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization, and propelled by thousands of mothers who refuse to see their babies' rights denied. You have an opportunity here to be a leader in the change that is taking place, rather than to be on the wrong side of the issue. And when you fail to replace a discriminatory regulation with a supportive one, you are not neutral. You continue to take a stand against the rights of mothers and babies.
I know that is not your intention. I hope that you will reconsider, and will in fact adopt a new regulation, and soon. Below is our proposed language. I would appreciate a reply.
AISD recognizes that breastfeeding is an important and basic act of nurture that must be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health and family values. It is also crucial for public health and reducing health care costs. The Texas Legislature says that a mother is entitled to breastfeed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.In keeping with these principles, mothers are welcome to breastfeed on AISD school campuses. Therefore, a visitor who is breastfeeding her baby may not be denied the right to be in any part of a campus that would otherwise be available to her. If she requests, a breastfeeding mother must be given access to the private room designated by the campus principal to be used by employees to breastfeed or pump. Any offer to use this room should be made only with genuine assurances that the mother is welcome to breastfeed her baby wherever she chooses.