Saturday, November 10, 2012

Policy Inquiry

The day after I was shamed for feeding my baby, I tried to find out if the district had a policy.  A search for "Breastfeeding AISD" yielded that the district observes National Breastfeeding Month - but I guess that's in August, mostly before kids start school...

I left an un-returned voice mail for someone in Health Services, and emailed the superintendent's office:

I would like to know if AISD has a policy regarding breastfeeding parents on school campuses.  Breastfeeding is protected by law (Sec. 165.002.  RIGHT TO BREAST-FEED.  A mother is entitled to breast-feed her baby in any location in which the mother is authorized to be.) yet parents of students complain on occasion and I have known principals to side with those parents rather than the legally protected parent.  If there is a policy, what is it and is it a written policy?  And where are parents authorized to be in a school?  Thank you for the information.

Eight days later, the response:

"Dear Ms. Donmoyer,

Yes. AISD employs a policy, DEA (LEGAL), embodied in State statute, regarding breaks for nursing mothers.  The policy itself addresses the rights of employees to express breast milk for one year after a child's birth, and further ensures that the District provide a location, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view from intrusion from coworkers and the public for such purpose. This, and other policies regarding parental rights as to their children and student privacy rights, have established a long-standing practice in AISD to provide a location, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view by others, to allow a parent the right to breast feed on campus, if necessary.  The Campus Principal is vested with the discretion to identify a suitable location on campus for such activity.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as the District seeks to balance the interests of many stakeholders on this and numerous other issues affecting schools."

The thing is, the Fair Labor Standards Act that ensures a private room is provided for lactation has virtually nothing to do with Texas Health and Safety Code 165.002, short of the fact that they both relate to breastfeeding. This practice may be wrapped up in the guise of legality, but I don't think it could fool anyone.  It's a violation twice, of a right, and of the law intended to ensure that right.


  1. This "long-standing practice" of "providing a location other than a bathroom" is a moot point. The LAW states that nursing mothers can breastfeed wherever they choose in public. The actual law that they referenced (not the "long-standing practice" which they also referenced) is a great one, but it does not correlate with the issue at hand. I hope a lawyer gets involved in this issue soon.

    1. I agree, they are not meeting the intent of the law, not as *any* nursing mothers perceives it, try as anyone might to make it all twisty.
      Here's my thinking regarding litigation:
      I really don't want my district spending money on lawsuits, I want it spent educating our children. And even in light of the form letter response people started getting yesterday, I am not deterred. I still feel growing public pressure to follow the law can have an impact. My concern if lawyers are involved is that public pressure will stagnate around a lengthy litigation process. And if we "lawyer up," - that's Waxler's world (he's the chief of staff and is responding to our letters), and we are at a disadvantage there in a way that we are not while out here spreading the story and expressing our disapproval.
      If a case is brought to trial, the intent of the law can be clarified, but if we lose, that's not good. And if we harness this grassroots movement to convince legislators to support an enforcement clause in the next legislative session, we'll be on stronger ground.

  2. The more I learn about this, the more astonished I am. So is the employer telling amother it is inappropiate to pump milk after the baby is a year old? Is it not okay for an employee to discreetly nurse her baby during the work day? (I once babysat for a nursing mother's infant. I brought the baby to her workplace daily, so she could nurse during her lunch hour. Would she be removed from the lounge for nursing?)

    But that is not the point of YOUR letter, regarding nursing your own baby discreetly in the lobby. If a school isn't a public place, having been built and supported by taxes, I don't know what is. If a parent isn't authorized to sit in the lobby while waiting to pick up children, who is? I do hope that school district gets sued, and then there will be clarity for them. They are wrong, and that should be corrected. I hope a nursing lawyer takes on the case, and brings her discreetly nursing baby to the school.

    1. The policy is patterned after the Fair Labor Standards Act. "Employers are also required to provide a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk." The accommodations must be made for a year presumably because the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for at least 12 months. I don't know if the district would allow an employee to nurse away from students in the teachers lounge or if they would insist she eat her lunch alone while nursing her baby in the private room if (s)he were brought to the school.
      If you are interested, you can read my reply to the comment above regarding litigation. But I agree, the school is a public place where I am authorized to be. :)