For the first time since we created the San Diego Nursing in Public Task Force in March, a nursing in public harassment incident has not been able to be resolved easily and peacefully. Over the past 5 months, the Task Force has offered guidance to a local mom as she tried tirelessly to remedy a harassment incident, to no avail.
Here's the situation:
Rachel Rainbolt was nursing her youngest child at a parent-teacher meeting (for her older son) when the teacher said she was being inappropriate. When Rachel stated that it was her right to breastfeed her son in public, the teacher stated that she wouldn't be able to do this in front of other families during the monthly presentation meeting with the other homeschooled children. When Rachel asked what the Poway Unified School District's policy was, the teacher told her that if she insisted on breastfeeding her youngest child, that her older son would not be able to attend his monthly presentations with his classmates and that he, instead, would be asked to present separately from his classmates, depriving him of the group presentation experience. These comments seemed to clearly discriminate against Rachel by punishing her for breastfeeding in public, as well as punishing her son.... a clear violation of the law.
Following these events, the May and June presentations were cancelled, due to testing schedules, so Rachel was unable to attend anyway.
Multiple letters were sent to the district, both from Rachel and the Task Force, to ask for a resolution and for the district to comply with the CA Civil Code 43.3, which states "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, except the private home or residence of another, where the mother and the child are otherwise authorized to be present." The district responded by saying that "Ms. Rainbolt never had her rights infringed upon. In this case, the teacher was doing her best to proactively balance and manage a sensitive situation in a learning environment where middle school age students would be present."
There in stands the dilemma....
This statement in and of itself defines the District’s view of breastfeeding as a “sensitive situation” (i.e. inappropriate, as opposed to normal). Middle school children would not need protecting from something that is a legal public right.
In May, Rachel filed a complaint of sexual discrimination with the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. After months of mediation, Rachel found out last week that the DFEH found that the presentations were NOT cancelled because of Rachel's complaints, but were instead cancelled due to testing, therefore no discrimination took place.
The DFEH completely missed the point for filing the complaint! Rachel didn't file the complaint because the presentations were cancelled. She filed the complaint because she was told that she couldn't breastfeed at the presentation, which, by the way, is a state-sponsored educational program.
Rachel is now in the process of providing additional information and evidence to support her original complaint. The issue still stands, though, that the Poway Unified School District has done nothing to ameliorate the situation. On Tuesday, Sept 18th, the Poway USD released this statement to ABC news “The District abides by Civil Code and Education Code in balancing the rights of mothers to publically [sic] breast feed [sic] with our responsibility to provide a classroom environment that is safe and supportive of all students' learning.” Again, this portrays their stance that exposure to breastfeeding is not “safe” for children.....again, a clear violation of the CA civil code.
Hence, the reason for the nurse-in at the Poway Unified School District offices on Wednesday, September 25, 2013. We are calling on all local breastfeeding mothers and breastfeeding supporters (with or without a nursling) to stand with us in solidarity for this important cause. Please join us, bring your friends and your nurslings, and let's make some positive change in our community!
The goal of this nurse-in is twofold:
1. To educate the community about CA civil code 43.3 (the right to breastfeed in public)
2. To ask the school district to explicitly create, and publicly state, a district policy in accordance with CA law; breastfeeding is permitted on school property, without condition.
Here are the details:
Meet us at the Poway Unified School District
15250 Avenue of Sciences
San Diego, CA 92128
Wednesday, September 25, 2013; 7:30am-10am