Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Replies - His & Mine

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply the next day.  Until I read it. 
Dear Ms. Donmoyer,
I just wanted to acknowledge receipt of your email.  I have not had a chance to visit with the Superintendent about it because she is out of town until we return to the office next Tuesday.  Even then, please be advised that with more than 85,000 students in the district, 120+ campuses, over 150,000 parents/guardians, family and community, and over 11,000 employees, we move as fast as we can, especially in these days with fewer staff than is required to meet all the needs and respond to all the questions and concerns before us.  I do hope you understand that we cannot always move as quickly as either you or we may like.  It was absolutely not anyone's intent to dismiss you or give this issue short shrift.  Indeed, I was the one who asked Marianne for suggestions for an alternative regulation.  I appreciated her response.  Nothing has been dropped as we continue to consider how to marry the intent of your proposed language with the district's continuing concern about disruption/distraction to the teaching and learning process in the rare occasion that such might occur.  I was even under the impression that the SHAC might be considering taking a look at the issue after I met with them to give the administration the benefit of any guidance it might provide.
I look forward to continuing to work with you on this very important matter.
Mel Waxler

Sagolla, "Skeptical Baby" 2/24/08 via Flikr, Creative Commons Attribution
Actually, I was frustrated by the reply.  I had not yet contacted all of the trustees, and here Mr. Waxler was, saying they had never dismissed the issue, as I had been writing in my emails to the first few board members I did contact.  So I'm wondering, does this make me look like a liar?  I'm quite certain it makes me look unreasonable and impatient.  (Never mind that my baby was 12 weeks old when this happened and he is now, to varying degrees, sitting, crawling, and pulling himself up; he has five teeth, and is seven and a half months old.)

So I started rewriting the email I'd begun on the assumption that they would receive information that contradicted what I'd been writing.  But with a weekend full of working with my oldest son on a big school project and celebrating my husband's birthday, it took me until today to reply:

Dear Mr. Waxler,

Thank you for your reply last week. 

As a mother of three, I can certainly understand that you cannot always move as quickly as you may like.  This is a major theme in my life!  However, I will say that your email rather hit a nerve.  It may not have been your intention, but there does seem to be an implication that I am unreasonably impatient.  And this implication was shared with at least one trustee.  My frustration is less with the timeline of this joint effort than with the fact that I was told the effort, for your part, had ceased.

I attended the January 9th SHAC meeting as a visitor, but unfortunately I went first to the board auditorium, before realizing that the January meeting was being held at Austin High.  By the time I arrived, the breastfeeding regulation had already been discussed.  I was told that (the
Administrative Supervisor of Health Services) had communicated to the SHAC what had been communicated to her - that administration did not intend to replace the rescinded regulation.  The SHAC determined that in that case, there was no further role for them to play.  I spoke with (the Administrative Supervisor of Health Services), (the Co-Chair of the SHAC), ...the medical director for AISD Student Health Services, and three or four other members, and they all seemed to be under the same impression as I am - administration was done with the breastfeeding issue. 

And you wrote to Marianne Baker, "There is no active work on an alternative regulation at this time."

Setting all of that aside, I'd like to address this distraction concern.

You wrote, "Nothing has been dropped as we continue to consider how to marry the intent of your proposed language with the district's continuing concern about disruption/distraction to the teaching and learning process in the rare occasion that such might occur."  Our proposed language affirms the importance of breastfeeding, assures mothers that they will not be shamed or isolated for feeding their babies, and serves to educate staff about the importance of staying true to the intent of the language.  Across the country mothers are seeing a growing need for sensitivity training regarding breastfeeding; the least that can be done here is to put a policy in writing.  To do so does not negate the district's unchallenged right to control for (rare) distractions in the teaching and learning environment, enshrined in district regulations. 

To address disruptions in the breastfeeding regulation would be, at best, redundant.  At worst, it still reads as discriminatory.  To stipulate that breastfeeding is acceptable as long as it is not disruptive stigmatizes breastfeeding as something which might commonly be considered disruptive, as though it is such an aberrant, deviant behavior that in and of itself it is a disruption.  No such stipulation would be made about bottle-feeding a baby, because the limitation is placed not on the baby's presence but on the feeding of the baby.

I look forward to a resolution of this issue.

Best Regards,
Krisdee Donmoyer

Outreach Coordinator, Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition
Blogger/Administrator, Keep Austin Nursing in Public

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