Friday, November 16, 2012

AISD Response to Letters

I have been somewhat quiet on Facebook today, and am woefully behind in replying to comments here.  But I am eating, sleeping, and breathing this issue.  If you could see the condition of my house and the size of the laundry mountains, you'd believe me. :) 

If you're new here and finding there's a lot of back story to digest, let me give you the elevator pitch: I was discretely nursing my baby at my sons' school when I was told to go to a private room, even though state law protects my right to breastfeed anywhere I'm authorized to be.  After many weeks on my part spent on the education and diplomacy process, Austin Independent School District officially adopted a policy in direct conflict with that law.  They require principals to send nursing mothers to private rooms.  I'm not talking about employees, who are not likely to have their babies on campus, and for whom these private rooms were set up to begin with, to facilitate pumping.  I'm talking about mothers with babies who are on campus for their older students.  Why is this a problem?  Because simply asking a nursing mother to breastfeed privately sends a message that what she is doing is inappropriate.  Breastfeeding is not inappropriate.  Not privately.  Not publicly.  It is feeding a baby.  And it is protected by law.

When my personal attempts at diplomacy and education failed, I began this blog to explain my story and ask for help in a letter-writing campaign.  The response was overwhelming.  Seriously.  I felt on the verge of an anxiety attack for two days as the blog reached 3,000 page views.  Now, with 11,264 page views here, 533 "Likes" on Facebook, 530 signatures on our petition (in just 36 hours), and many emails/letters sent to the district, you would think they might realize their folly, right?

Um, no.

Posted to our Facebook page today by a supporter, a response from AISD:
Thank you for your email dated November 14, 2012, regarding breastfeeding policy in the Austin Independent School District (AISD). I am responding on behalf of the District to advise that the current practice has been in place in AISD for at least a decade, and has been reviewed by our administration and the Board’s Policy Committee within the last sixty days. The District’s practice is also in place at the City of Austin, Travis County, The University of Texas, Seton Family of Hospitals, and other school districts in the Austin area.

The District very much respects your ardent support of breastfeeding. In fact, the value of and advocacy for breastfeeding is not at all at issue in AISD. The only question is where breastfeeding occurs while on an AISD campus.

This matter arose on one AISD campus because there was an objection raised to breastfeeding in a public area on the campus. As you can imagine, not all parents and staff are of the same opinion regarding the propriety of breastfeeding on a school campus. The District has reviewed the law and concludes that it allows breastfeeding on campus in a place that is clean and dignified, (not a bathroom), and that is authorized and designated by the principal. This position is aligned with Texas law that guarantees the same rights to AISD employees.

Once again, the District appreciates your expression of support for breastfeeding, and we sincerely hope you understand the District’s need to balance the interests of many, especially in an environment that cares for and educates the children of parents and other caretakers with varying and deeply held feelings on this subject.

Melvin E. (Mel) Waxler
Cc: Superintendent
Board of Trustees
Director of Intergovernmental Relations and Policy Oversight
Senior Attorney


What do you think of Mr. Waxler's reply?  
Do you think violating the law and shaming nursing mothers 
demonstrates that AISD values and advocates for breastfeeding?


  1. I. Am. Simply. Dumbfounded.

    It's rare that I'm at a loss for words, but I am sitting here, sleepy-eyed while my 3-month old nurses, with my jaw dropped to the floor. This is absolutely ridiculous and not at all the response I would have expected. Your letter was so well written and did such an incredible job at educating and advocating for breastfeeding in public, that I was sure they would realize that they were in the wrong.

    Next steps?

  2. Shocking!! I breastfeed my son at my daughters school. I would not be shy if anyone said something to me! That may be why no one ever has? Both at Bailey her middle school and now at her high school she started this fall. Wherever you go from here you have a small army of people behind you!

  3. Thank you both for your support! I am surprised, too. But I am not deterred. I think continuing on this same path will still have an impact. I'll post later about the school board meeting that is a week from Monday. I think the more people share the story, the more support we show that we have, the more likely that they may make the right choice.

  4. Ridiculous!!! So say I have a child in school who happens to have a concert or awards ceremony, but I also have an infant who is hungry. Would I have to miss part of the performance to nurse my baby? And the part about not everyone having the same opinion in regards to breastfeeding? The FACT is that breastfeeding is far healthier than formula and breastfed children have higher IQs. You would think a school district would appreciate that FACT! Are you allowed to bottle feed a baby in public at an Austin school?

  5. So this means that mothers are not authorized to be anywhere on campus other than in these rooms? They're sure going to get crowded fast if all mothers have to stay in those rooms at all times.

  6. I don't understand what anyone's "opinion of propriety" has to do with LAW. What kind of example does that set for our children? That it's okay to disobey LAWS if our personal opinion does not agree with them?

    Also, if the City of Austin, Travis County, The University of Texas, Seton Family of Hospitals, and other school districts in the Austin area jumped off a bridge, would you?? I know for a fact that this is not the practice that is in place at UT. I have nursed on campus there, and I nurse my son in his classroom at the daycare every day. I have been not just supported but encouraged to do so any and everywhere on the UTCDC property.

    This is disgusting, shameful, and an embarrassment to this city.